I played rugby league for one year. The year was 1990 and I was five, and I can�t remember anything except that I didn�t like it. All the other kids were bigger than me, faster too. Most of the time I hung out the back of the action, making mud pies and waiting to taste the sweet, sweet half-time oranges. It wasn�t until 1992 that I actually realised rugby league existed, and funnily enough I�d retired from it by then, and was running in tries at will (perhaps a slight exaggeration) against typically flimsy rugby union defences.
So who am I to talk about rugby league?
Does anyone want to hear my opinion? Unlikely. Does what I say carry any weight? I�d rather not answer that one, although I do have at least two, count em, two friends who will ask my opinion on league related matters. That�s my reward for over a decade of following the game intensely, thinking about it, analysing it, trying to appreciate the subtleties and nuances.
Thank God, Allah, Buddha, the Ubermensch, and Francis Meli for the Internet.
On June 20, I will celebrate two years of sharing my views with rugby league fans around the world the only way I know how- a blank stare, a swift mouse-controlling right hand, and fingers bashing violently on the keyboard. In between finding out how to make bombs, and visiting bighooters.com, I will be hammering out my thoughts on the issue of the day (probably the Warriors getting flogged again), and expecting people to read them. And best of all, people will read them- sometimes they�ll even reply. The great thing is that everyone�s equal online, although some are more equal than others. Inevitably the Internet attracts the same old know it all conversation killers that you find among the crowd on any rainy Sunday afternoon at the footy. There�s the old fart who thinks everything was better 30 years ago, the 13-year-old girl who thinks that Craig Wing should captain Australia *^*^*coz hez sooooooo hot*^*^*, and then there�s the guy with credentials.
Doesn�t everyone hate those guys?
They�re the ones who have a level three coaching certificate, who had their promising careers ruined by injury, or worst of all, who actually achieved something as a player. They could be an ex Junior Kiwi, a former fringe first grader, or an anonymous current player, and they think that this alone makes them more knowledgeable about rugby league than me or you.
Luckily, this phenomenon is less prevalent online, simply because the burden of proof is too onerous for most ex footy stars. I suppose this explains why they end up on TV and radio. I know I�m not the only one who has listened to Laurie Daley or Daryl Halligan or any former player, and thought that what they were saying was, simply, wrong. The instinct in this situation is to immediately assume that you are mistaken- how could I know something that Laurie doesn�t, when I played mud pies for half a season, and he played first grade for 14? This train of thought is unfortunate. It�s a clich�, but footy isn�t rocket science, and the players aren�t Rhodes Scholars. It�s one thing to be able to see what�s happening on the field, and another to be able to get out there and do something about it- luckily for us punters, the former is an insight shared by all fans to an extent, and not necessarily correlated to the latter.
Journalism does offer some consolation to the less athletically gifted potential league expert. The New Zealand Herald�s Peter Jessup has retained his job for years, despite never having played league to a high level AND knowing nothing about it- what an inspiration. Richard Becht of the New Zealand Sunday Star-Times, and Australian writers like Big League�s Neil Cadigan, have attained expert status via career paths more closely linked to penmanship than penalty counts. The opinions of these journalists are probably more credible than those of the less erudite former players they grudgingly afford column inches to. It is certainly satisfying to know that sometimes a years worth of orange sampling is more than enough to qualify oneself as a budding footy expert. Now that�s something to remember the next time a former North Queensland under-16s superstar who can�t spell his own name tries to tell you that you don�t know what you�re talking about.
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