It’s been fun whipping up the passion of Blues and Maroons alike in the lead up to State of Origin II. The energy generated by the friction of that clashing pride, outrage, hunger and yes hatred too, warms an NRL body during a dull cold winter.
But an article by New South Wales captain Paul Gallen in The Sunday Telegraph reminded me that as much as we love to hate each other, we Cane Toads and Cockroaches have many more similarities than we have differences.
Gallen wrote about how his Dad would travel to Brisbane from Sydney to watch the Origin clash at Lang Park, returning home to tell his boy about the shaking grandstands, the players and the atmosphere.
Then there were Gal’s teenage years, sitting shattered in front of the TV as Tonie Carroll scored to win for the Maroons in 1998, and cheering at Homebush as “Joey carved them up in 2005”.
The big Blue says he’s been waiting for this Origin game his entire life:
“I was at a function recently when some footage of me running out at ANZ Stadium came on one of the televisions. I still find it weird to see myself running out first for my state.
“Two years ago, I couldn't get a jersey.
“It has taken a lot of hard work, effort and pain.”
If rugby league were an Olympic sport many of these Origin players would be marching in London’s opening ceremony alongside Magnusson, Rice, Pearson, Watt, Meares and Perkins.
They’ve all made great sacrifices to be the best and at times have been judged harshly and publicly by fans and critics such as myself who have very little idea of the level of physical and psychological effort they are putting into every game.
So to Gallen and his squad I pay my respects. I’m not saying you’re going to win this series but thank you for being passionate competitors who are bound to push the Maroons to greater heights.
As for the rivalry between fans, let’s just admit we all love and hate the same things. We love a fast, aggressive and free-flowing game. Every single one of us feels our heart thumping as the clock ticks away to 80 minutes with a close or dead-locked score. We all hate a fake injury, sloppy ball handling, or a team deliberately slowing the game. And is there anyone who doesn’t think they could referee better than our men in pink?
For the 362 other days of the year that we don’t play Origin we all seem to get on OK. Even Mal “rats and filth” Meninga and Ricky “fake and smug” Stuart, have been spotted on more than one golf course together during the year.
For 362 days I pal around in New South Wales with my Blue mates too, I cook my Blue husband dinner, and I am on track to give birth to a Blue baby this year who I am almost certain I will love despite its Origin loyalties.
If you still don’t believe me about the love and passion we cockies and toads all share just remember, we may not adore our Origin opponents or their fans but at least none of them play or support AFL.
So bring on the greatest game of all, the love, the rivalry, the passion, and two great teams who will drive each other to play harder, faster, stronger and more skillfully. Origin fans are all winners.
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