TRAVELS: XVI

TravelsBy STEVE MASCORD
MY favourite piece of Origin III commentary from Ray Warren came some time during the first half when the Channel Nine cameras focused on the visiting Manchester United squad.
“I don’t follow the soccer that much, Peter,” he said in reference to co-commentator Peter Sterling, “but you do.”
Sterling then went on to name several members of the Man U line-up. I don’t remember who it was because, like Ray, I don’t “follow the soccer” either.
Let’s quickly talk about the game. Queensland were fantastic, despite a hefty penalty count and everything NSW could throw at them. Terrible penalty to NSW before the James McManus try.
The streaker preventing a late Maroons try was pretty much unique in a big rugby league game. Can you imagine if it had been a Blues try disallowed? There would have been calls for a replay.
And Greg Inglis is out for up two months with a knee injury that he bravely played on with. Those tipping South Sydney to run away with the premiership had better think again.
Now back to my main point.
I’ve always been bemused by the number of feature articles in match programmes in the UK which quote stars from other sport saying how much they love rugby league.
On one hand, you could stay it smacks of insecurity. On the other, however, you have to accept that rugby league is in the shadow of what you call football in England so there is logic to the trend. These stories get the attention of casual sports fans.
But Paul Gallen even said before Origin III that one of his biggest regrets about missing the game through a foot injury was that the Man U stars wouldn’t “know my name” for 80 minutes!
Aside from stratospheric salaries, what is it about any foreign sportsman that an NRL player should envy? No other sportsman on earth goes through what those 34 players at Homebush did on Wednesday night and there were 83,000 people there for the Origin decider.
You might say I am promoting ignorance. But I’m just advocating confidence. Would an NFL player, a Serie A footballer, a Major League baseballer regard it as an honour that Ryan Giggs “knows his name”?
I have my doubts.
These remnants of a colonial inferiority complex affect Australia’s role as the leading rugby league nation. Instead of trying to spread the game, we have only recently shed our all-encompassing obsession with just winning all the time.
If Australians could think of themselves as leaders in spreading a passtime they are passionate about, rather than underdogs needing to beat England at it, our whole sport would be better off.
I can’t imagine any Australian rugby league player who has been to a Premier League game could be more impressed with the experience than the Man U footballers would have been with watching a pulsating deciding Origin game live.
But then again, who cares whether they enjoyed it? We have to stop being obsessed with what others think of us. It’s a teenage trait that it’s high time we grew out of.
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WOULDN’T it be great if we could keep Benji Marshall in rugby league by having him join a Super League club?

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Schoolboys Games Moved Because Of Alcohol Advertising

Ground advertising at Suncorp Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

A COMPLAINT about schoolboys playing on stadia surfaces branded with alcohol advertising has forced the National Rugby League to move curtain-raisers for last night’s first grade matches and fly three NSW teams to Brisbane.

Keebra Park High and Endeavour Sports High were scheduled to play at Suncorp Stadium last night before the Brisbane-Melbourne NRL match but the ARL Commission received a complaint that advertising painted on the halfway line and each 30 metre line promoted Bundaberg Rum and was inappropriate.

Two Sydney sides, Holy Cross Ryde and Blacktown Patrician Brothers, were also due to play before the Wests Tigers-Canterbury match at ANZ Stadium last night in the other semi-final of the schools comp. Both have been moved to Ipswich on Sunday, as a curtain-raiser to Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup game between Ipswich and Redcliffe which is covered by Channel Nine, the schoolboy competition’s contracted broadcaster.

Martin Meredith of the NSW Rugby League Academy said a complaint was made around two weeks ago. He could not say who made the complaint but said the league had spent 10 days rearranging the venues in response. The Herald received conflicting reports about its origin – that the alarm was raised by a politician and that it came from a parent of one of the players.

Meredith said he was not concerned for the future of the national schoolboys competition, which in the 1980s shot the likes of Peter Sterling, Greg Alexander and Paul Langmack to stardom.

“The fact is, something good might come of it,” he said. “Hopefully their will progress made in terms of digital signage – like at the Olympics where the swimmers had the line ahead of them indicating the world record.

“We will be able to have local sponsors during the schoolboys game and then different sponsors in the NRL game.”

The final of the competition has been moved to Toyota Park on Sunday September 2. Sunday NRL games are not sponsored by alcohol companies.

An NRL spokesman said the original complaint was “irrelevant”. “We have our own very strict rules regarding junior sides and alcohol sponsorship – it’s just that no-one made this connection before,” he said.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD