What Are We Playing For?

Picture: David Kapernick/theaustralian.com.au
John Harms looks at the legend that is origin. Picture: David Kapernick/theaustralian.com.au


STATE OF ORIGIN - Harmsy's Handle

One of my favourite moments in the sporting year comes in the lead-up to kick-off in State of Origin.

It’s not that overblown bit where Gus Gould starts under the posts and walks slowly towards the camera, gesticulating with one hand, telling us that Origin generally, and this one in particular, is the biggest thing since the Duke of Cumberland threw an intercept pass at the Battle of Culloden.

No, it’s that simple moment when, in introducing the players on the Channel 9 coverage, the graphic shows their home club – where they started playing the greatest game of all – is identified. It includes a folded-arm image of the player trying not to laugh and across the bottom is the logo, designed by the local station-master, or newsagent, of his club of origin. Billy Slater: Innisfail Brothers. Cooper Cronk: Souths, Acacia Ridge. Matt Scott: Longreach Tigers. (Matt’s from the little town of Ilfracombe). It is brilliant.

It makes you feel like a Queenslander!

It takes you back to where you are from, and when you played the game, and it makes you consider the importance of Origin and of the moment. It takes me back to the little country town of Oakey on the Darling Downs and doing backline drills at under 13 training when the frost was descending, and the steam-breath of skinny kids in the linen jumpers of Valleys and the Rabbitohs lingered in the semi-darkness of ancient lights often seen at bowls clubs and local tennis courts. It takes me back to trips (“Mason’s bus will leave at 7.45 from the RSL Hall”) to far-off places to play the farm-boys of Millmerran, or the criminals of Newtown, or the Catholics of All Whites. Those kids were all huge - and devoid of conscience. And you spent the bus trip trying to avoid a horse bite or a dead-leg, while trying to scab a Juicy Fruit off Mudguts Hudson (our prop).

We always copped a flogging and I may have been the most useless five-eighth in the history of the game, but we tried hard. It’s was the ‘70s and we lived in a fog of interstate disappointment, with the Blues so dominant, and thieving.

So when State of Origin came along we were liberated. Arthur Beetson and the boys righted the world and we realised, while on the squirt on the veranda at the Regatta, that we were all OK. We were Queenslanders. It was the world that had conspired against us.

And we worked out that Origin mattered.

Well, with nine in a row up for grabs this year, this is no time to rest on our laurels. It is easy to become complacent, until you realise they are playing not for a dry statistical record, they are playing for a way of life.

They are playing for the bacon stuff they put on the baked potatoes at the Brekkie Creek; they are playing for chance meetings at the Pink Pussy Cat Motel and the freedom to laugh at southerners trying to pick up two bob cemented into the footpath at Surfers; they are playing for the beach at Fraser and bream sanctuaries like the wreck of the Maheno; they are playing for prawn sandwiches on crusty, white bread; they are playing for Yatala Pies and macadamia-nut ice-cream, for the rum gravy at the Buderim pub; they are playing for the sound of mangoes hitting the roof; they are playing for storm clouds, cyclones, and stubby-holders; they are playing for the shrill whistle of rugby league grounds where tuck-shop ladies with saggy arms dose mushy peas onto pies; they are playing for the Mooloolaba Surf Club and ; they are playing for thongs, stubbies and long walk socks (especially on dentists, pharmacists, clergy north of Burpengary, and customs officials); they are playing for palm fronds and philodendrons and the City Hall clock; they are playing for the XXXX factory and the Roma Street Station and the Tele and the memory of the Don Tallon Bar; they are playing for that little bit of Queensland blue couch at the front of the 18th green at the Oakey Golf Club; they are playing for the right to give a team-mate a dead-leg in the bus going to your junior game.

Yes, they are playing for a way of life: the right to do bugger-all, wherever bugger-all is happening.

So these boys are charged with a great responsibility.

Which, knowing where they’re from, they will shoulder well.

Go you Queenslanders!!!!!

John Harms is editor of footyalmanac.com.au


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