Thursday, July 18, 2013

my name is Christine and I am a footy-head...

There's something my friends should know about me: I like rugby league football. 

When I say I like rugby league, that's not entirely true. I like to watch my home team play and I like the State of Origin. The game itself is kind of weird - homo erotic but with a culture of denial regarding this that borders on the homophobic. It is filled with incredibly BUILT young men most of whom remind me of Pooh - they are bears of very little brain and long words bother them. 

The game that I now describe took place some years ago, but it has always stuck in my brain because my team, the North Queensland Cowboys had made it into the finals and I was there to witness it.

What can I say except...


On this particular night, my three footy-head friends and I got tickets for the first semi final. It was a grudge match against the Bulldogs.

What can I say except...


The Doggies are the dirtiest team in the league. Everybody agrees - except Doggie fans, of course.

The Cowboys are the shining outsiders - most of the teams are based in Sydney, filled with city and suburban lads. But the Cowboys hail from the Far North of the country, where men are men and women eat their young. Several of our star players grew up on remote indigenous communities.

In particular, there are these two cousins, God love 'em - gorgeous young guys, shy of the press, but always smiling, raised together in a community called Hopevale right up on the pointy bit of Oz where few but traditionally raised Aboriginal people and Steve Irwin types venture. When they play together, they are psychic - each knows exactly what the other is going to do next and you can see that everyday of their childhood was spent running around barefoot in the backyard throwing a footy to each other.

So our trip to the footy has been arranged all week. Usually we watch it on H's big screen TV. You get a better view of the game on telly - everyone knows that. BUT you get the atmosphere when you go to the ground.

H got the tickets early in the week. Section 333, seats 1,2,3 and 4 in row X of the southern most grandstand. Hmmm... That didn't sound so good.

We rendezvous at H's place at 17:00 hours. I am dressed in a navy and white shirt with a grey windcheater.

But the Cowboy colours are navy, white grey and yellow.

I have no yellow!

Damn! I feel naked. I am a BAD Cowboy supporter. 

We jump in H's car - she is a freak, and has an actual Cowboys jersey on and carries flags and signs and bemoans the sad fact that she didn't have time to paint her face.

We drive to the shopping centre nearest the ground to stand in an orderly queue of similarly dressed people and wait to fill the buses which leave one after the other to take us to the ground.

Everyone is excited but nervous. You'd think we, ourselves, were playing. I get a little people buzz on - I'm not someone who enjoys crowds for the sake of it but a football crowd is exciting to be in. You soak it in. The old guys who played footy in their youth, the middle aged women who have lost their sense of decorum and no longer feel embarrassed to want to watch their favourite gladiators run into battle and best of all the little kids, clutching their flags and bouncing on the seats like they need to pee. Here and there, on the buses, small brave pockets of resistance fighters - lone Doggies supporters in sky blue and white, some so loyal, they have traveled across the country for one game of footy.

Once at the ground, we went forth on the long trek to find section 333, row x, seats 1,2,3 and 4. Well. We are in the very top row at the very far corner of the furthest stand. 

Surprisingly, that's okay. That means we can beat on the corrugated iron backing of the stand when we get really excited - it makes a sound like thunder. There's a giant screen to watch the close action on. When the fireworks go off, they are at eye level with us. Fantastic.

In in front of us, a row of foreign tourists sits down. I think they are a business delegation or something similar. There's a couple of Brits, an Irish guy, a Norwegian woman, an Aussie and an American.
The round, baldy, yet somehow redheaded, Irish guy spends the game very knowledgeably and seriously explaining the rules of the game to everyone else. 

Except he is wrong on almost every point he makes! It's hilarious. The others all nod politely, still basically confused about why they have to pass the ball backwards in order to move forward.

And the crowd goes wild.

Every time Big Willie Mason, the meanest player for the Doggies and the villain of the piece, touches the ball, the crowd erupts in primal booing and hissing and catcalling.

Every time little Matty Bowen, one of the cousins I told you about earlier, touches the ball, the cheers and the whistles and the stamping of the crowd vibrates in the air around us.

When Big Willie Mason puts a vicious and illegal hit on Little Matty Bowen, venomous emotions rise up and hover like a black cloud over the arena. Matty gets slowly to his feet and stretches and jogs a little in place to show us he is recovered and the noise is palpable. My friend says, "Good old Matty, all he has to do is stand up and we love him twice as much all over again!"

I used to resist this type of experience. I didn't want to be part of the hoi polloi. I didn't want to be one those stamping hordes brought up or down in mood even for a moment by the passage of an oval shaped ball propelled around a smallish oblong by teams of bears of very little brain wearing different coloured clothes.

And sometimes I still don't like it much as a characteristic of human nature in general and me in particular; that we can get so engaged in a game and yet can't work up a puff of outrage against the things in life that could really use some of our passion - hunger, injustice, inequality and so on...

But, well, you know, it's the footy.

Anyway... WE WON! With three minutes to go, Little Matty Bowen stopped a try by tackling a bloke 6 inches taller than him about six inches from the line!


And so we progress in the finals - I can almost taste our first premiership!

5 years later...

Still waiting. 

Check out my novelThe Anzac Girl


  1. They're not my ream but I was over the moon to see your beloved Cowboys take home the big prize last weekend. Congratulations, what a game - one of the best I can remember. And JT - what can you say?

    Never a truer word said about those cheating, lying, whinging Bulldogs.This year I celebrated 40 years of loathing them, having started at the age of 13, when I first became a fan of the code. (For my sins, I followed Manly back then.)


    1. Cheers back, Harry the Hat! It was a great game indeed - I had to double my heart medication to cope with it. Townsville, and the North in general, are still on a high :)