The Joey Del Experience: Massive Hits, Knockout Blows And Playing With Heart!

Posted at 19:17 2009-07-17
Living in Sydney I find that I often need to go into bat for Rugby League. It always cops heat from those south of the border trying to explain why it is such an average game compared to the Aussie Rules that originated down in Melbourne.
The problem with these battles, is that so often the people south of the border are right, but like being out at a night club with a friend who decides it is a good idea to go up and grope the one girl who is hanging out with a group of massive tough looking guys, sometimes you need to fight a losing battle because that is where your allegiance lies.
Rugby League has made this hard for us over the past few years with players deciding hotel hallways are as good a place as any other to take a crap, glassing girlfriends in public places, driving after consuming the quantities of alcohol that I wouldn’t be able to breathe after and getting in more fights at Kings Cross night clubs than I have had hot dinners.
However finally on Wednesday night in State of Origin III, the gentleman (a term that is used loosely) of our sport finally realised the secret that will help get our game back to the forefront of sport. If you want to be a psychotic Neanderthal that is fine, just keep it on the field.
Firstly a bit of background information for the readers who either live in another country (like England, America or Tasmania) or for those who are Australian and just happen to live under some sort of rock.
Rugby League is a very simple game, get the ball and put it over the line on the other side of the field whilst the 13 players on the other team try to rip your head off. The game’s greatest centrepiece comes in the middle of the season each year when the best players from New South Wales and Queensland fight in a battle (State of Origin) to see which state is the most supreme.
Queensland have been the undisputed champions of Origin for the past few years. As a Sydneysider, it has gotten pretty tilting to watch as we have had no answers for anything that they have thrown at us for quite some time now. Then on Wednesday night it finally clicked, we need more passion. Don’t worry about the pretty boys and the highly paid stars, bring back the power, bring back the hits, bring back the intensity, bring back the passion.
On paper (as it always does) the NSW team looked completely outclassed by the QLD side. The game was played in front of more than 50,000 drunk Queenslanders up in Brisbane and considering QLD has won the first two games of the series this game was effectively a dead rubber.
Well somebody forgot to tell the players that.
It was on from the word go, it became apparent that NSW were not planning to go down 3-0 and, with so many fans in their home crowd, QLD weren’t going to give it to them easily. Things really escalated when David Williams scored a try (the first semi competent thing he did all series) and Jonathan Thurston kicked him in the head afterwards awarding a very rare 8 point try to NSW.
The passion was rife for the full 80 minutes. This could be seen when with 5 minutes to go and the contest well and truly over after being kneed in the head by Steve Price, Brett White came up swinging. Now this wasn’t your standard sports blue where the two players rush out and hold each other close and say nasty things about each other’s mother. This was literal toe to toe boxing.
Don King could not have staged a better fight than this with the two players exchanging hits that should only be seen on pay per view! What ended the fight? Not the referees whistle or the intervening players but the blow to Price’s chin that left him in some sort of fairy tale world headed towards the ground completely unconscious. Price was taken from the field completely comatosed and luckily is fine now but the following 3 minutes of football was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.
Darren Lockyer holds the titles of Brisbane captain, Queensland captain and Australian captain. He is regarded as one of the smartest players and best tacticians in the game. However his plan for the last 3 minutes of the game was more reminiscent of under 18’s park football in Greenacre than of the biggest stage in our sport. After getting the ball from a penalty his advice was simple. Kick the ball to the other team and kick it as high as you can. This way we will have enough time to run up and whichever one of them gets the ball we will just smash the crap out of. Mission accomplished as NSW fullback Kurt Gidley caught the ball, was greeted by five QLD players all looking for blood and another brawl took place. In fact I counted and during the last 3 minutes of the game I saw just 17 seconds where there wasn’t a massive on field brawl.
Now you may be reading this and thinking, how barbaric is this? How can you endorse this kind of violence? Well quite easily. As soon as the siren sounded signalling full time all of the players stopped fighting and shook hands with their opponents and congratulated each other on a game well played. The fight was not one of malice, it was one of passion. All 34 players involved in the game played with every ounce of their heart. It was not a fight of personal vendettas, it was a fight, like the earlier example of standing up for your friend, that was full of pride. They were fighting for the jersey that they wore. Players doing stupid things off the field is idiotic, people going out to a night club and getting so loaded up on alcohol that they can’t see and then fighting because of it is idiotic and should be prevented at all measures. But fighting for a reason, for pride is a different kettle of fish.
Rugby League has a long way to go to get back to its old former heights but Wednesday night was the first time in many years that I believed that the players actually thought that the game was worth fighting for. This gives us a glimmer of hope that the game we have grown up with in this part of the world might not be dead and buried just yet.
In other news we interview Paren “Puzz” Arzoomanian on this week’s episode of PokerNetwork Radio. He chat’s about his deep run in the WSOP main event as well as swine flu and life in Las Vegas in general. As always it is a lot of fun so check it out!

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