Image courtesy of Facebook page "State of Origin Fights"
"Mum, why are they fighting?"
I looked up from painting my toenails to see NSW and QLD players throwing punches. I thought it would be special and fun for my 9-year-old son Philip and I to stay up and watch Origin 1 together. We're Eels fans and Blues supporters but we're not fanatical about it. It had been so fun watching NSW get the lead and Jarryd Hayne having a brilliant game, but when games descend into violence (and not just in the stands) that's when I sigh and consider giving up following League all together. These are professional sportsmen for crying out loud. If they can't control their tempers, then what hope do impressionable young children have?
I watched the instant replays of the fight (was it really necessary to replay it that many times?) and listened to the commentry and couldn't believe, just couldn't believe that it was Blues Captain Paul Gallen who had started it. He's captain! He should know better. It turns out he started throwing punches because he felt QLD forward Nate Myles was deliberately trying to injure him during tackles. Still, tell the ref, don't start a fight. He deserved his onee-match ban.
And just when I was feeling like it was all okay and Paul Gallen had been dealt with effectively, explaining to Philip that there are consequences to such actions, Nate Myles who was the target of Paul Gallen's blows says he's disappointed with Gallen's punishment, saying the fight just added to the 'theatre' that is State of Origin football.
If you ask me, the punishment didn't go far enough. Gallen – who plays for the Sharks – missed their clash with the Melbourne Storm as a result of the fight but if you ask me he should have missed Origin 2. Now THAT would have been a proper punishment (except I really want NSW to win Orign 2 now that Origin 1 is in the bag!).
I want to be able to watch sporting events with my kids. I want to show them how true professionals play, how much effort and training they put in, how they perform to the best of their ability and how they demonstrate sportsmanship. Like the Socceroos game against Jordan which they won, with style! Now those are classy boys! GO THE SOCCEROOS!
I know, I know, you're all shaking your heads at me saying, "For goodness sakes Jo, it's League. What do you expect? League is famous for fights like this. PICK A DIFFERENT CODE! PICK A DIFFERENT SPORT!"
It's just that I grew up with League. Peter Sterling and Wayne Pearce used to visit my school when I was in Kindergarten and give talks and hand out awards. I became an Eels fan then. I didn't watch many games until I was in my twenties but they were always my team and League was always our code of choice. Dad and I used to watch soccer and tennis together as well. Don't all Aussie kids grow up watching some kind of sport?
League is a HUGE part of my community. I have friends and family members whose lives revolve around their teams performances. They are the same ones who would donate limbs to see the Wanderers win the A-League comp next year (they are horrified that I am a Central Coast Mariners fan but I can't help it, I LOVE THEM!). They LIVE for these sports and their children do too. They have every jerseys, scarfs, hats and foam hands on offer.
I stepped back from League when the Eels started performing so badly. Philip was just starting to follow more carefully but he'd be so sad after games. My nephew is teased when they lose. The players are passionate and so are the followers. Fighting and teasing and jeering is the norm. But it's not right. These are not the lessons we want to teach our children.
Should kids be watching League at all? Should I let Philip watch Origin 2 on Wednesday night? Many of his school friends will watch, his cousins will watch and he'll be so upset if he isn't allowed to.
Almost every weekn since Origin 1 a League star has been busted for drink driving, fighting and other infringements resulting from bad behaviour.
If NSW wins Origin 2 nobody will be kicking themselves harder for not watching than me. Let's just hope he doesn't ask where Blues prop James Tamou is (he's been stood down for drink driving!) and Blake Ferguson (stood down for indecent assult). Jarryd Hayne is out injured…I don't have a good feeling about this!
I am looking forward to watching. If they could just behave like grown up, trained professionals then it would be fine. GROW UP! And leave the biff at home.
Origin 2 is on Wednesday 26 June and is being shown live on Channel 9.