Interview: The Month Of Living Dangerously
Unions: Staying Mum
Economics: Precious Metals
Industrial: The Cold 100
History: The Vinegar Hill Mob
Legal: Free Agents
Politics: Under The Influence
International: How Swede It Was
Review: Keating's Men Slam Dance on Howard
The Locker Room
The Power of Ones
The Locker Room
A World Away
A team carrying the hopes of millions, playing a long way away from home, up against some of the biggest names in the sport, ended up being cruelly crushed on the back of some hapless refereeing.
Yep, that was this year's State of Origin finale.
No one is ever going to catch an escalator up Everest, the Pope isn't going to appear on the cover of Penthouse, and Melbourne will never embrace rugby league.
Nonetheless, every year or two we go through this sad ritual where a rugby league test match or a state of origin is banged on for the bemused Mexican throng, with the NRL safe in the knowledge that ducks on a pond will draw a crowd in Melbourne.
This column actually played Rugby League in Melbourne and Adelaide and must report that it was a lonely, sobering experience; trooping out to far flung suburbs to play a handful of other sides in a competition riddled with expatriates from very limited parts of the world on makeshift grounds in a code that no one cared about.
Even after the Melbourne Shower arrived it has changed little. The extent of the junior code matters not a jot on the consciousness of the youth, while the senior equivalent battles on with a handful of clubs that seem to pop up like mushrooms, with the same longevity and form of sustenance of that irascible plant.
In Adelaide a decent deployment of Australian armed force personnel overseas could wipe out half the competition, popular as it is amongst those who swear fealty for queen and country. While clubs like the Geelong Tiger Snakes depend largely on the Kiwi Diaspora.
The only truly remarkable thing about league in the southern states, apart from how easy it is to get a run, is the striking South Australian state jumper - a gold red and black concoction that is at once stirring and psychadelic. The crow eaters done themselves proud there.
They can certainly hold their heads higher than their shabby treatment from the so called "top flight" rugby league which did a now you see it, now you don't routine - before being punted by Lachlan Murdoch as part of a peace deal that was successful in parts of the country where people care about muddied oafs.
Further east, there was some spurious strategic reason in keeping the Melbourne Shower in business.
The News Limited flagship is in running for the premiership, mainly on the back of Uncle Rupert's largesse. How long the Holt Street accountants keep propping up John Ribot's toy remains to be seen now that Murdoch the lesser, in a fair imitation of Henry VI, sinks from view amidst the gallantless parvenu that is News Limited.
This column once watched a person with a swipey ticket at Olympic Park stand there for three quarters of an hour at a turnstile, swiping the entry turnstile over and over again, in what must have been a mission to single-handedly break the attendance record. The next day the paper said there was 8,000 odd at the ground when there was probably closer to 500.
Melbournites care more for Morris Dancing than they do for Rugby League, which for them is a fascinating novelty, like the mardi gras or a car accident.
Not like in Katoomba, where the Devils charge for the semis has been noted. A recent win over the indigent profligates of Hawkesbury featured an astonishing effort that saw the ball volleyed through no less than three sets of feet, without touching the turf, before it landed on the chest of an accelerating centre, who went through a hole as wide as Sydney Heads to score. Thrilling stuff.
But even this toe poking effort was dwarfed by the eponymously named world cup, where an under performing England cheered everyone up (And proved the old maxim - a team of champions will give everyone the shits).
Aussies did proud and the hubris has been sensational. Proof in the pudding will come with the advent of this year's A League season, but if Dwight Yorke is back with Sydney FC then hopefully, the fact they have built it means the crowds will come.
Not like Fitzroy. For them the crowds were too often thin, and heartbroken, and surly, and drunk. Vulgar Press has produced a book of tales from my old lover, the fickle mistress that is the Fitzroy Football Club. Her turmoil and grace, and how we all felt that kick in the cods in '96 (which seems like a very long time ago full of startling fresh pain).
I am still too heartbroken to read about it, but if you are an uncaring misanthrope, or revel in melancholy, the details are here.
Luckily there is the happy mindless violence of country rugby league to lose myself in; otherwise this sporting life would be too beautiful to stand.
Phil Doyle - getting a little sideways as he tries to pass in the chicane
PS - Thanks to those who appreciated June's sports column, the best apparently.
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