The great game of rugby league, saturated in rich heritage and underpinned with a revered history, will forever find itself jousting with the feisty and youthful beast of progression.
The sport has been constantly churned through the stamping press of time and subsequently embossed with evolutions like video technology, floodlit night games, convoys of on-field officials, retina-aching change strips and more recently, the unkempt bushy beard motif of the current generation of young dudes.
It’s fair to say that some of the changes over the years have been embraced and celebrated, while others have been downright flushable.
There are those that have been beneficial to the welfare of the game, an increase to its entertainment levels and a boost to its popularity, such as the 40/20 rule, national expansion and the retirement of the corner post.
On the other hand, others have been either rightly consigned to the trough of shame or still in existence and widely panned on the regular, with beige-shaded clangers like the South Queensland Crushers, video ref system complications and the basketball-style guernsey number system from the Super League days.
Allowing for balance between change and roots, future and past and forwards and backs, when it comes out in the wash I’ve got to say that I’m a diehard man of tradition. Sure, I’m happy for anything to be scooped up that will improve this wonderful game of controlled biff, but only on the proviso that we cling to what got us to where we are in the first place.
Yep, when it comes to the pecking order, it’s old fashioned logos, crumbling suburban stands, 4 inch-high layers of strictly-wrapped electrical tape on every body joint and going ‘around the grounds’ on crackling AM radio for this proud traditionalist. Give me a piece of Dencorub-flavoured Stimorol and send me to the bin for five any day of the week.
So when I heard the rugby league lefties up in arms this week caterwauling for the abolishment of one of the game’s great archaic threads in the time-honoured and stomach-evacuating Mad Monday, I was naturally spewing royale.
Whether that was from pure disgust or the combined hot dog eating competition/boat race we had at our local clubhouse at 9pm on Monday, I cannot be entirely certain. Either way, I’m mightily unimpressed by this latest attempt to amputate something that is rusted-on to the game.
Mad Monday is the greatest holiday not officially recognised by the government on the national calendar. There’s no more solid cinder block in the foundation of footy than the first weekday following the cessation of on-field duties.
It is an annual institution for the parched and fatigued soldiers of the football paddock. After billions of hours on the training track and in the ruck, all they ask for in return is a quiet snifter of port and a chortle amongst colleagues at 25 separate pubs over a 32-hour period to mark off another year of toil in studded boots.
Not only is it a reward, it is also an occasion where tales from the coalface are told, bonds are formed and celebrated and departing players are sent in to the sunset with record-sized bar tabs and one shaved eyebrow. Game plans are devised for next season and dissected for the one just completed, and the icy barrier between feuding prima donna playmakers is melted via the vehicle of horrific dress and juvenile pranks.
And some want to cruelly take this away from the humble players in light of the isolated incident involving the Bulldogs chaotic tipple this week?
Shame on you, PC squad.
What everyone must understand is that Mad Monday is more than just an inland tsunami of amber and shenanigans. It is the core of the roots of the heart of the spirit of the game, and it must remain lest our players fully transform to tame sober vegetables or worse still, go in the opposite direction and become tempestuous a-holes on account of a hastily enacted prohibition of once-yearly good times.
How can we justify the quashing of one of the player’s last rights on the lycra-covered back of the foolish- and unproven- actions of one group, a group who had just been belted in a grand final and who had a nightmarish biting incident to flush from their memories?
The images and results of this week are few and far between, and must be treated as such.
And if this humble rant doesn’t spark a public tidal wave that washes away suggestions of this foolish and ill-thought ban, then the prospect of enforcing the thing should. Who is going to attempt to police hundreds of Disney-robed footballers on the sauce, and how would this ‘ban’ be administered?
Seeing Shane Mattiske and John Grant trying to physically prevent Sam Kasiano from angling a stubbie in to his mouth would be a sight in itself.
Please don’t take another medal of tradition from rugby league. Let common sense prevail.
At least for the welfare of costume shops everywhere.