Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Journey to the Dark Side

Yes, rugby league, the wriggling code. Never been to a game in the UK, and a couple of decades ago my name would have been mud in the Scottish amateur union code for even considering it, but times change, and sadly this is the number one sport in Australia. Mainly because it occupies the place in the national psyche that football does in Scotland, with all the positives and negatives this implies. An incredible number of players have been in the papers recently for alcoholic and sexual misdeeds or general loutish behaviour, and some of their excuses are very entertaining. But it brings in the fans.

We went to a game in Penrith west of Sydney (the Sydney couchsurf hosts were laughing hysterically at the thought of tourists heading so far into the backwoods) for a game with local rivals Parramattah, the sort of local rivalry (think Ayr v Kilmarnock in Scotland) the rest of the world ignores but means everything to people in the two towns. Who seem pretty rough diamonds. One fan we conversed with in a hostelry was interested in Europe only as a source of dope, and we saw a cracking fight after the game featuring about 10 people including a pregnant woman, with not a policeman in sight, despite a 16,000 attendance. And in the midst of it all was an excellent game, about 38-34 to the home team with the lead changing hands at least 8 times, thanks to a mix of good skills and useless tackling. The game doesn't have enough variety to displace Rugby Union in my affections, but I wish Union (especially in Glasgow) could draw crowds like this. And we saw some more traditional Aussie dancing - pictured. Myself and Erich spent much of the game congratulating ourselves on our choice of seats.

This is my last night in Oz. Think Sydney is still my favourite city here, even if inevitably it's not as exciting when there isn't a rugby world cup on. Spent part of the evening watching a film with a Sydney setting. Yes, Finding Nemo, featuring the clownfish I swam with on the Barrier Reef. Hoping to see a few more on my next stop, Hawaii.

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