by Geoff Woolcock
Another Origin series begins, and with it the Origin alternative universe or as the victorious Blues coach Loz Daley put it, “It’s Origin. It’s a different game”. I was going to write a piece condemning the Gallen one-two punches to Nate Myles and send it straight to one of the various teeth-gnashing on-line opinion forums/blogs/commentaries, presumably to a sympathetic audience. But having been in a few uncomfortable all-male, unquestionably racist footy chats in the wake of the Goodes-McGuire uproar the week before, I figure it’s best to get in the thick of it with fellow Almanackers and call us out on it… ie do you reckon the aftermath has unfairly picked on Gallen, has Loz got it right calling it “a great Origin moment”? Or are you with Steve Renouf’s tweet: “So now kids can go out this weekend and king hit another kid on the footy field with no repercussion”. Guess it’s pretty obvious – I’m with the Pearl.
Do we really think this is ok? Because it’s Origin? I love the toughness of Origin, the hard hits, the brute force, it’s part of the theatre but king hits with the fists to the head are not. A lot of fear drives perceptions that violent crime is increasing everywhere but the only area where it has markedly increased in Australia is assault. There’s a lot of people who reckon it’s a stretch to equate some biffo on the Origin park to aggravated assault off it. I’m not one of them, having mixed with enough footballers when I was younger to know that the boys who were prone to throwing haymakers on the paddock were the ones most likely to repeat the dose off it.
I reckon there’s also still a large enough crowd around that might frown on the punches but don’t buy the role model argument that Renouf implies in his tweet. Again, all I would say is get real, especially as someone who’s coached teenage footballers for the last few years. Why wouldn’t they think it’s ok when legends of the game can call it a great Origin moment? Why wouldn’t they think it was legitimated when they read this morning’s Courier-Mail headline “We’re ready for you Paul”? Seriously, the infantilism that comes out at Origin time exposes an unseemly underbelly of Australian society that makes you wonder just how much progress any anti-violence campaigns have achieved. There’s much to be proud of in sentiments behind the One Punch Can Kill campaign (click here) but it’s dripping in hypocrisy if it’s divorced from our rugby league greats wanting to describe Gallen’s violence as something different, in the “heat of battle”. Much as I’ve been taken back over the years with how primal instincts Origin footy seems to bring out in women, it’s still men telling men that this grubby violence is not on that will trigger change. It’s fantastic to see other league loving commentators calling it for what it was (Quentin Hull ABC 612, love ya) but it needs men telling men as part of natural banter at the water cooler, at the pub, in the gym, over a coffee and not at some stylised awareness raising event where the rehabilitative scripts have been written for us. Man up, as the resilience gurus would put it.