One of the first Australian sporting events to slip, nay bludgeon its way onto my viewing agenda was the Rugby League State of Origin which kicked off its 2012 season earlier today.
Prior to my arrival in Sydney, it’s fair to say that rugby league did not feature very highly on my list of ‘must watch’ sports.
My UK rugby league associations largely consisted of Saturday afternoons watching on Grandstand as two sets of men from places like Worksop and Batley, all built like dray horses, pummelled each other in knee-deep mud as Eddie Waring intoned excitedly “It’s an oop and oonder”.
At times, it looked more like a re-enactment of the Battle of the Somme.
How different rugby league Aussie-style seemed to me, boasting a glamourous and fast-flowing competition, played by teams in brightly coloured, almost mud-free kits as they zipped across the turf with their flaxen hair flowing in the breeze.
And at the pinnacle of this competition was State of Origin – an annual opportunity for interstate rivalry/hatred to whipped up to a crescendo by eager media outlets.
(For the unititiated, ‘Origin’ involves three matches each year between Queensland and New South Wales, with teams being selected based on where a player played his first senior game of rugby league. I think)
What first struck me about these contests was the almost gladiatorial way in which the players, club team-mates the weekend before, would look to beat the living daylights out of each other a mere few days later.
It seemed almost comical to me the way in which each game would inevitably descend into a fight (or ‘stink’ or ‘blue’) for no discernible reason. And as soon as two players started trading blows, their team mates would join in also for maximum effect. It was almost pantomime-like in its predictability.
Think I exaggerate? Have a look at this ‘best of’ montage, putting extra meaning into the phrase ‘greatest hits’.
Anyhow, for some reason I became hooked by the contest’s brutal beauty and it soon became an essential date in my diary, whether that be in front of the TV, or even on some occasions out at the stadium.
But this year is obviously different, what with me being 10,000 miles away, so I can mark Origin 2012 down as the first Australian sporting event that I will really miss watching.
But wait, what is this? I see that my newly-installed Sky service offers live coverage, so maybe all is not lost.
Admittedly, watching a game with a pie and a beer at 11am may, on the surface, seem a bit desperate, but here is where I have been cunning.
I taped the game this morning and have been studiously avoiding any form of media ever since, Likely Lads style, and I am about to watch the game ‘live’
So now the kids are in bed and it is time for what it is very probably Lewes’s only State of Origin party tonight. And whatever happens, don’t tell me the score.