I've watched a lot of Rugby League. Probably more than would be considered healthy.
I've come close to hypothermia at Bruce, eaten a pie at Brookvale, shaken hands with Captain Charger at Carrara and been swathed in the emotion of Lang Park on Origin night.
Whilst each of these experiences is worthy in its own right, there's a notion among city dwellers that Rugby League ceases to exist outside the big smoke. Some are of the opinion that when you're not paying $6 for a warm beer or parking the car further away from the stadium than you actually live, you're not watching footy.
I'm here to tell you, it's not true. There's more to it than that.
Because I'm such a grand fellow, I'll steer you through. I'll impart some wisdom, give you the skinny and slip you the tips that'll ensure you never think that way again.
So throw the kids in the Prada and head west down the M4, clutching this invaluable bit of literature -
Frank's 7 Step Guide To Country Rugby League.
See how the graffiti becomes less prolific? Notice that the road gets narrower and the signs out the front of the shops have more spelling mistakes. Are there 26 council workers staring into a ditch, scratching their chins? Does the air smell funny? Good. You're in the country.
Take particular care to read each town's population sign as you drive through. What we're looking for here is any number under 6000. Ignore any town with more than this as their footy ground will probably have some sort of grandstand, the local team will have matching jerseys and you're still going to be paying $6 for a beer. An even better idea is to look for a town with one of those 'shire population - 1200' signs. In these towns, the 'shire' includes the cattle and the kangaroos, so you're pretty much assured of no more than 300 townsfolk. You're also assured of a ripper game of footy.
Now that you're in the proper type of town, keep your eyes peeled for moving traffic. If it's local traffic (you can tell by the lack of number plates), follow them. If these cars arrive at a poorly fenced, bindi infested paddock with a concrete cricket pitch in the middle, congratulations. You're at the footy.
There will be a grizzled old man wearing a shiny tracksuit standing at the gate as you drive in. He'll put his hand out and demand money as you wind down the window to greet him. The exact amount demanded will depend on how fancy your car is. I hope you've been brushing up on your haggling skills down at Paddington Markets 'cause you're going to need every negotiating skill you've got when you're behind the wheel of a car that cost more than his house. But be nice. He's also the bloke that'll be selling the hot dogs and you don't want one of last week's. Trust me.
Find a park on the dead-ball line. Send the kids off to collect empty cans to subsidise the shafting you just copped at the gate. Take a seat on the bonnet of the car, taking care to leave one person behind the wheel. It's their job to honk the horn and flash the lights if the home team scores. This person is also handy if the honking and flashing is mistakenly directed at the opposition, in which case things could get ugly and a quick getaway might be in order.
Sit back and marvel as these men from the bush dish out an education in the way our great game should be played. Grimace at the ferocity with which the props collide, be spellbound as the cheeky halfback puts a rampaging backrower through a hole in the defence, witness the power of the hooker as he burrows through to seal the game for the locals. And after the courageous hooker thrown the ball in the air in euphoria, run over and thrust a cold one into his meaty little hand. You've just doubled his match payment.
Ring all your mates to tell them of the wonderous day you've had and start planning your next trip to the country.
Now that you've seen the game in it's barest, most beautifully brutal form, I'm sure you'll agree.
There's nothing better.
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