The week before last, was the first game of this year’s (Australian) State of Origin rugby league series.
For rugby league fans, this is one of the major events in the calendar.
Sadly, my state of Queensland (the good guys) lost in a close encounter. That gives their opposition New South Wales Blues the upper hand, leading up to Game 2 of the three game series.
It reminded me of the time 11 years ago that Queensland were down 1-0, and I felt responsible for the loss. I penned the following letter, which a few people enjoyed and was published in a local paper.
Although all the game details are from over a decade ago, I thought it’s worth publishing here for posterity.
State of Queensland
To the people of Queensland:
I feel the need to apologise to the state of Queensland. My cheering at Wednesday night’s State of Origin rugby league match was clearly lack-lustre, and it obviously led to the New South Wales team’s win.
I was happy with how I started the match with lots of clapping and countless screams of the
“QUEENS-LAND-ER” war cry, but at pivotal moments through the match I made bad judgments which lost us the match.
Queensland scored first through Darren Lockyer going out wide. I was able to set this up through some strong “C’mon”s which built up to an almighty “Gooooooo!!” which the opposition had no way of defending. At this point I felt pretty comfortable with my form, and perhaps this was part of the problem. I thought the game would soon be under control so I moved back into my seat and had a sip or two of my beer. What a mistake that was. While I was happily taking it easy, New South Wales answered back through Anthony Minichiello scoring practically under the posts. He completely caught me off-guard – I nearly sprayed the row of fans in front of me with my mouthful of Queensland’s finest beer.
Now with the scores even it was time for me to calm things down. To get the team in the right frame of mind I shouted “let’s go guys” while clapping, and it was getting results. The team was successfully absorbing the pressure those New South Wales Blues were applying, so I thought it was an opportune time for me to visit the toilet and release some of my pre-match beverages. I awkwardly made my way down the row of spectators, then down the stairs and into the toilet when I heard some of the crowd roar. This was clearly not going to be my ‘Origin night. The Blues had taken advantage of my departure with another Minichiello try. Johns successfully converted to make the score 12 – 6 in NSW’s favour.
When I returned to my seat I was determined to not let down my state again. I really focused on my cheering. And although I wasn’t able to improve QLD’s score before half time, I was content with keeping NSW from scoring again.
The half time break gave me a good chance to reflect on my first half effort, and think through my plan for the second forty minutes.
Before I knew it, those insolent New South Welshmen parade back to the field. That’s my cue to open with a strong “BOOOOOOO.” I smile wryly at the knowledge they now know they’re in for one tough second half.
The Queenslanders then jog back on to a crescendo of applause, whistling using my fingers, and a medley of previous screams. It felt for a moment that my voice was beginning to fail, but thankfully it was just a false alarm. There was an air of tension, but I was quietly confident of turning things around this half.
The game got under way. I decided to go out strong; this was to be my half. I applauded every run and every tackle our guys made. And it wasn’t long til my increase in intensity brought results. Our team’s captain Gordon Tallis fed off this enthusiasm, and scored. We kicked the goal to tie the scores up again. But this time there will be no taking it easy and having a drink. The team needs me.
Play continued and it becomes a bit of an arm wrestle with no team getting the upper hand. I know I need a game-breaker. It’s time to bring out the big guns. While we’re down in their half putting a string of good plays together I decide to go for the stand up and scream “goooooo!!”. It worked and got our captain over the line again. Then I perhaps made my biggest mistake, I chose to follow up this play with a “woo hooo” combined with a contented look around the stadium. When I drew my attention back to the field, the referee was asking for the video ref’s assistance and adjudication. I knew at this point that the “woo hooo” was definitely premature. I prayed to all deities and hope I hadn’t blown it for the team. But after an eternity, the score board displayed the video ref’s ruling: NO TRY .. I sat back in my chair, and thought of what could have been.
Soon after this our defence started to struggle. Not on my watch I thought to myself. I immediately answer with a “get back guys!” And while they did make an effort, our line became too stretched and their captain, Andrew Johns, put Craig Wing over the line underneath the posts. They converted the goal. NSW now lead 18 – 12.
With all this excitement, the NSW cheerleaders make a move and assemble behind their team’s goal line, IN FRONT OF ME. There is no limit to the dirty tricks NSW will play in a desperate attempt to get me off my game.
The distraction allowed Andrew Johns to kick a field goal to make it even more difficult to manufacture a comeback. NSW lead 19 – 12.
At this point I should have gone back to my original plan and raised the intensity. But instead the pressure reduced me to biting my nails in the hope that somehow this would devise a new plan. Nothing came to mind, so I turned to beer for assistance. But as soon as I thought of something that would surely work, Johns runs through a gaping hole in the defence I neglected, and converts to make the score 25 – 12.
The game appears to be flying past me. I forget the plan, and my beer is empty. It’s time to get another. I go to stand up and get another but glance at the scoreboard on my way up. There is under a minute of play remaining. I sit back down with my hands over my face, and think of the many places I went wrong.
The siren sounds game over, and New South Wales have defeated me 25 – 12.
NSW take a 1 – 0 lead in the series. But I learnt a lot of lessons from the game, and the experience has better equipped me for the two deciding games of the series.
Queensland, I won’t let you down again.
History goes on to show, my letter was quite unhelpful. New South Wales won that year’s series in the next match, sadly the first of three series wins in a row.