Footy is Alive

29/06/2013

Copyright Renee McKay/Action Photographics
Copyright Renee McKay/Action Photographics

The Sydney weather didn’t stop me from venturing out to the Olympic Stadium for my first LIVE match of 2013. Parting with my $35 bucks was a new adventure – I don’t think I have ever paid to watch a match since arriving in Sydney in 1973 as a kid from Casino to play for the mighty Dragons. At least the seat wasn’t in the rain.

So many people are familiar and friendly, part of the massive footy family I have developed over the seasons, years and decades at so many great clubs. Saying hello to a thousand people before I get to my seat gets me there in just enough time to settle in, rugged up, hoodie for warmth and some anonymity. I was a rabid Rabbit supporter as a kid so the whole thing has gone full circle sitting with Bunnies fans, into their footy and their team AND THE REFS – before a ball was kicked!

That was about it for me. Souths did a tremendous professional, clinical job over a disappointing Raiders team. Plenty of guys looked the goods again for the mighty red and greens and the fans sure showed their appreciation. The Burrow gathered on the far side of the cavernous, spiritless monstrosity that housed the 12 thousand odd devotees of the Glory Team (and the single digit Green Machine masochists). Thank God for the Burrow or I swear despite the chill I would have gone to sleep such was the boring monotony of the Rabbits dominance and the Raiders cluelessness.

So when I woke early this morning to watch the LIVE Super League match (Catalans @ Huddersfield Giants) I was really looking for a dose of that passion English crowds can spontaneously generate. Oops it’s another Stadium that doesn’t fit the occasion. The French team brings no support as per Raiders and despite their lofty ladder position, just like Souths, the Giants cannot muster enough fans to create atmosphere like other clubs can. In a different match where the Dragons somehow managed to stay in the contest at least on the scoreboard for half of the match the Giants fumble and switch on and off until by default almost they put 60 on the fading visitors.

Thinking I am doomed to miss out on any real LIVE footy enjoyment, I search the planner on Fox IQ and realize I haven’t watched the recorded Monday night match Warrington hosting Wigan. I know the score and the tremendous end to the match but still eventually get my fix!

Wow what a difference – this is how I love my footy. The home teams ground is as full as a butchers dog and everyone in it seems to be as well. The pubs have obviously done well pre-kick off because these fans don’t wait for the players to excite them into full throttle support of their teams. It’s on – with the cherry and white army seeming to match the home fans decibel for decibel. This surely is going to rub off on the players.

It does. Easily the highest intensity and fiercely competitive match I have seen for a long long time in Super League. I was somewhat cynically waiting for it to fade for one side or the other and with good reason I thought as Wigan had a very inexperienced crew with 6 or 7 first teamers out injured and Warrington reputed to have the oldest squad in the League.

Not so. The match kept going to the very end with tremendous hits in D, assertive and at times blockbusting carries all on the back of a pugnacious attitude from every player! Real skill in all areas of attack, defence and kicking was evident on so many plays and sets – in fact there were very few dud plays throughout.

If the commentary had just shut the beep up about the refereeing and the obstruction rule (which the officials got 100% right anyway) it would have been a perfect end to my search for top entertainment.

I couldn’t help but think, if the Super League could manage more matches like this the growth of the game would not be in any doubt, so many youngsters showing real talent and commitment for Wigan and a sprinkling of the same for Warrington.

Coaches, players and officials of this match all deserve congrats and should be pleased and proud. But it seemed ironic to me that the crowd who paid just like I did at Olympic Stadium made the difference. They generated the atmosphere for the players to feed off and didn’t they respond! So the electric atmosphere led to electric footy. Both sets of supporters went home entertained and pleased they had been there. Anyone watching like I did on TV would have been thoroughly pleased with the quality of the footy no matter who they supported.

I got the feeling Souths fans went home happy to be still on top of the comp and assured of playoff footy so early in the season. The rest of us …. Well I think I might go sit and sing with the Burrow next time.