State of Origin Fever
When the months get colder, our blood gets warmer, and State of Origin fever descends upon Australia’s two greatest states (piss off, Victoria).
Symptoms may include: a vibrant blue or maroon rash, Tourette-like profanity directed at television screens, and/or increased levels of aggression towards your work colleagues and neighbours. There is no cause for alarm. It will pass. It is merely the annual Purge. Civility will resume come August.
It’s a strange feeling going into a State of Origin series with New South Wales as the defending champions and a good chance to take it out again. It’s kind of refreshing though. As a Queenslander, I struggled to get into it last year. Not because Queensland lost, but because the New South Wales team was too bloody likeable and I felt like they deserved to win after all their years of toil. Blokes like Boyd Cordner and Damien Cook seem like wonderful young men, not the brutish grubs of years gone by. If it weren’t for Latrell Mitchell and his on-field carry-on, I may have been compelled to send them all a congratulatory hamper of delicacies from the Sunshine Coast region.
But now that Freddy Fittler and his band of barefoot merry men have a series win under their belt, I’ve spent the off-season building up some irrational hatred and I’m raring to go.
Because Origin, like most local rivalries, is largely about an absurd hatred of someone almost exactly like yourself, they just live on the other side of the street. Does its success hinge on a dark truth that we all truly hate ourselves? Possibly, but I don’t really hate myself, I just have a mild mistrust.
But now my hatred knows no bounds once again. I look forward to raging at the injustice of 50/50 calls, as if the referee has insulted my mother and dragged her off to jail. I quiver in anticipation at the creative abuse I can hurl at young men who are just trying to earn a living by entertaining me (the hide of them!). I drool with glee at the banter I can direct at strangers on the bus, who may or may not know what the hell I’m talking about.
The one thing that does fill me with trepidation, however, is the commentary team. Can someone please ask them to retire? A decade ago I had a lot of time for them, but now I want to mute the volume five minutes into the pre-match. I did, in fact, turn a game off last year because I couldn’t stand it anymore (my wife contests it was sour grapes because of the score line, but in truth it was probably 50/50). They say great athletes can ruin their legacies by going a few years too many, well, so can commentators.
Regardless, with or without the banal bias of men past their best, I approach this series with a joy long forgotten. It feels good to care again.