State Cup perfect for budding NRL fans
I took my six year old son to the footy on the weekend.
He has been to the SCG, Kogarah and Cbus Super Stadium in the past but I'm not sure he ever had as much fun as we did on Saturday.
In the course of two and a half hours we bought two cans of soft drink, a sausage roll and a packet of Twisties which all told put us back the grand sum of $10.
After our first excursion to the canteen we passed by the merchandise table where Harrison was met with a warm welcome by a club official and given a poster and two stickers to take home.
Before the two first grade teams ran out we had a kick of the footy on the field and as I took notes during the first half Harry ran up and down the sideline trying to expel the energy the mere sniff of soft drink can give a kid his age.
At half-time we went for a kick amongst the other kids on the grass behind the posts and at full-time we went back onto the field and met with one of the players.
We had a great afternoon and it in many ways replicated my earliest memories of going to the footy, sitting on the hills at Leichhardt Oval, Parramatta Stadium and the Newcastle International Sports Ground.
But Harrison and I weren't at an NRL game on the weekend.
This was an Intrust Super Cup clash between Burleigh and Sunshine Coast at Pizzey Park and the match-day experience left a lasting impression on Harry and made me one proud dad.
By little choice of his own he is a Rabbitohs fan largely by name but he is now also a Burleigh Bears fan. There is a 'Go the Bears' sticker proudly plastered on his bedhead and the 2015 team poster has taken pride of place on his bedroom door, some interior decorating not met with widespread approval from other members of the family.
Next week at school he wants to take his poster for 'Show and Tell' and tell his friends all about the Burleigh Bears.
He now knows that Jason Chan – a family friend – plays in No.12 and that too much bad food really does give you a pain in the belly.
When we got home after the game we excitedly rang Harry's uncle Damien to tell him that we had seen his friend Jason play and that even though he didn't score a try his team had won 28 points to 12, all information Harry relayed without any prompting from his dad.
I know the NRL can't have kids streaming onto the field at full-time in the modern age but perhaps it is time to view our state leagues in a different light.
They are not merely the proving ground for players with aspirations to play at the highest level but also the nurseries of our next generation of footy fans.
It's a great place for youngsters to go to a game and not even have to watch it; they can merely revel in the experience of being at the footy and still make it home in time for dinner – even if your no-good dad has ruined your appetite.
One of my great – and admittedly largely silent – crusades is to enhance the NRL game-day experience for young fans who refuse to sit in one spot for two hours unless there is an iPad in their hands.
Why can't each team at every NRL game set up a trestle table, sit a club legend and a current injured player there for an hour and invite kids to come and collect a poster, a sticker and an autograph from who will soon become their new favourite player?
With the infrastructure at modern stadia, my simplistic solution will likely remain a pipe dream so in the meantime I'll continue to take Harrison to watch the Bears.
They're at home again this Saturday against the champions from 2014, the Northern Pride, although this week we might have to ditch the second-half Twisties.
We don't want to have to front the Footy Excursion Committee for a second-straight week when we get home.
Video courtesy of qrl.com.au
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