Kellie Warner – At State of Origin Time, The Question Of Passion Will Arise…

It is that time of year again. The time where every Rugby League fan declares themselves blue or maroon(apparently pronounced maroan… don’t get me started…) The time of year where friends turn to bitter enemies. Where you are suddenly the biggest fan of players you would normally detest simply because of the colour jersey they put on. It is State of Origin (SOO) time.

Now I live in Queensland. This does not make me a Queenslander. This is state of ‘origin’ after all and I originally came from the blue state. The wonderful state of NSW. Sydney to be precise. Now why I live in Queensland is a long story beyond the scope of this piece. I imagine you are shaking your head wondering how I have managed the past seven years. Well it has not been easy, I do not hide my Blues status. I wear it like a badge of honour which does of course mean this time of year tends to be difficult for me.

Though it is not the losing that bothers me the most. I mean of course it bothers me. No one likes their team to lose. I have been following NRL since I was a small child. I still have not quite gotten over Balmain’s grand final loses in 1988 and 1989. The scars are still there. So losing seven years straight has not been pleasant. At times it has been downright depressing. But the current Queensland squad is made up of some of the best players in the world. It is little wonder they keep winning.

What really bothers me though more than that whole seven year thing is the whole issue of passion. No not bedroom passion. I’m not talking about that nude picture of Robbie Farah from that calendar a few years back. The one with the picture of him holding that seemingly effortlessly placed brick. No I don’t mean that kind of passion. Not at all… Wait hang on where was I?

Oh yes. Passion. That thing that the Queenslander insist they have much more of. That intangible something else they insist is the secret behind their wins. You see the Queenslander would have us believe that they are more passionate than their NSW counterparts. They say their pride in the jersey is stronger. Queensland players grew up, they say, wanting to wear the maroon jersey. The New South Welshmen it is said want to wear the Australian jersey. The country they represent is more important to them than the state. This is why they keep losing. They don’t have the passion.

Every single year it is mentioned. Often by the players themselves, former players, coaches etc. It is not just a media beat up. These men believe that: they believe they are superior to those south of the border… At least where this pride and passion are concerned.

It is interesting to think about that fact that wanting to play for your country is somehow not a good thing. It would seem Queenslander are Queenslander first and Aussies second. Hmmmm…Interesting. But forget about that for now. What I want to explain to you is how it felt growing up in Sydney as a rugby league fan. What I know of the passion those of us from south of border feel.

If we can just remember for a minute that there was not always a Queensland team in the NRL. In fact before it was the NRL it was the NSWRL. It consisted of teams mostly in and around the Sydney area. It started in 1908. So this is how long players who hail from NSW have had to take pride in where they come from.

Only I think we see it differently. Back then we were not perhaps as passionate about being from NSW because the enemies were closer than that of another state up north. When I was growing up the pride in your team went right alongside with the pride in where you came from. In my case it was western Sydney. Which means South Sydney and Manly where the enemy. The deadly enemy. You want passion? Try watching a game played at Brookvale, Redfern or Leichhardt oval played anytime last century and see for yourself.

Even now over 100 years later these rivalries live on. These relationships full of hate still exist. I cannot barrack for Souths. No matter that each player on his own may be nice enough. It is what it represents. Souths are the enemy. That is it. That is all. Souths supporters are as passionate about hating us Westies. We both hate the Eastern suburbs and everyone hates Manly.

Passion about where we come from? We have it in spades thank you very much Mr. Queenslander. It is just different to yours. It comes from over 100 years of rivalries. Something you would know nothing about having joined the comp so late.

So once SOO started those rivalries were still there. They took a group of guys who on the field were used to hating each other and often even trying to hurt each other and said you now play as a team. We are all from NSW and the enemy is Queensland. Now to be fair they caught on pretty quick. Players came from north of the bridge, south and east and west of it and somehow formed a team.

Now after all these years I would say they still do it pretty well. Perhaps even the passion for the part of Sydney you come from isn’t as strong as it used to be. Players often do not live in the suburbs that their team represents. But if it has ever seemed that these players lack passion for the Blues jerseys ( and let’s face it like I said before, it is said of them, every single year) then I think this is why. It is hard to forget old rivalries. Brisbane is one team in the comp. They have no history of hating other teams from a few suburbs away. There was no quickly driving through a suburb after getting lost when you realise you are driving through Redfern with a Wests bumper sticker. There are no great punch ups in final matches that live on in folklore between two teams from the opposite sides of the tracks that made up Sydney, the punches thrown with every ounce of passion and pride these men possessed.This sort of passion is unknown to the Queenslanders who go on about it so much.

So if we are going to talk about passion then lets get it right. Both sides have passion. Both sides are proud of where they came from. It is just different. It comes from a different place based on the different history behind the formation of each states journey through the great game of Rugby League.

I don’t doubt the passion of the Queenslander. I actually like quite a few Queenslanders… well at least at other times of the year. But I am quite tired of my boys in Blue being labelled as something lesser than their Queensland counterparts. Whether we win this year or not all I ask is that the players play their guts out and show their pride in the jersey. I’m certain they will. They have been outplayed the last seven years because of a discrepancy in skill and experience. Passion is not and has never been the difference.

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