“Oh good, the Broncos are playing the Bunnies this weekend,” said my card-carrying, Brisbane-biased mother who has loved the Lang Park boys since their inception to the competition in 1988. “I love the Rabbitohs!”
“Oh yes, well my team is the Broncos darling – but I’ve always liked Souths, you know that? Plus I fancy Russell Crowe.” No, no I didn’t know that Mum; and quite frankly I’m afraid of other deep, dark family secrets you are hiding...
As a Queenslander I’m forced by the ties that bind all those born north of the Tweed into loyalty and belief in everything that bleeds maroon. “Let’s go Broncos!” was shouted around the schoolyard as I’d pretend to be Paul Hauff (I was head and shoulders the tallest in my class and felt an affinity to the giant, gangly 6’6” fullback). So while I’ve proudly supported the Broncos as my team, even during the ‘unpleasantness’ of the Super League era, I have to confess I’ve developed a love for a second team. I didn’t plan it, it just sort of happened. It’s not you Brisbane, it’s me.
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How long has it been going on? Maybe six or seven years. I’m sorry, I should have said something sooner. Like most rugby league romances, it started innocently around State of Origin time. I don’t know if it was the tribal roar at Suncorp that rocked me to my core, or the free-flowing Fourex flooding through Caxton Street. One week I was cheering for Cam, Greg, Billy in maroon – and the next thing I knew I was taking a sly interest in them in Storm colours. Sure, I’d been part of the Lang Park faithful since I was young, standing on the hill cheering passionately for our Queenslanders – but that had never before transferred into the regular season, causing me to stray.
So there it is: I confess my second team is the Storm. But I know I’m not alone; almost everyone is guilty of a wandering eye over the weekend when their team isn’t on the field. No jerseys, bumper stickers or membership packs mind you; just a mental attachment and fond interest to that team that caught your attention after your first league love.
Traditionally the Broncos have the most fan support of any NRL team; this is likely due to them being Queensland's oldest NRL team and the only club representing the Brisbane population. The Storm? Way down the list. I felt slightly better about my fan-infidelity when I read Storm supporters are more likely to attend an AFL match than an NRL game. An AFL match! Perish the thought. At least there’s no cross-code lusting in my dalliances.
However, I’ve wondered whether my main loyalty would be tested if Brisbane were granted a second team in the NRL. Would it draw a battle line across the city that would force me to renew my vows to Red Hill, desperate to show my unwavering faith?
If Brisbane is able to get the proposed Bombers to fruition, they would join bids from Central Queensland, the NSW central coast and everyone’s favourite, Papua New Guinea. Should the Kumul-loving fanatics in Papua be granted a franchise in the NRL, I’d imagine PNG would instantly become everyone’s second team. One for the battlers who believe that rugby league is the game they play in heaven and on earth. The scenes in Port Moresby, even for just a regular round, would make Origin and grand final attendances look like the humdrum of a hospital during visiting hours.
To conclude, the second-team scenario seems totally acceptable providing that team are comparably the underdog. Apart from Russell Crowe’s cash and dark brooding looks, my Mum likes the Rabbitohs because of their working class, knockabout history, rich in larrikins and hard luck stories. It’s perfectly okay to share the supporter love, isn’t it?
So don’t feel guilty about throwing your support behind a second team that needs a little extra attention. After all, Aussies love the underdog... that is until they threaten your first-choice team.