Almanac Rugby League: Masochism runs deep in the veins of all footy fans



Masochism. It runs deep in the veins of all footy fans. How else to explain an unwillingness to abandon your team before the final curtain is drawn when it is suffering a complete and utter flogging.


It was June 25th, 2006  and the NZ Warriors were putting the Bunnies to the sword. We might have left early but we stayed to the bitter end, hoping in vain for a morsel of carrion comfort in the form of a late try, or even a penalty goal, to see us through to next week’s fixtures. But it never came and, when the referee mercifully blew his whistle for full-time, the visitors had slaughtered the boys in Red and Green by 66-0. It was, as they say in the classics, a cricket score.


According to my diary, it was a cold but clear Sunday – perfect weather for a game of rugby league. My mate, Washington Minor, picked me up in his ute from Harry’s Café de Wheels at Woolloomooloo. On the other side of the glistening harbour, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban were tying the conjugal knot at a church in Manly. On the other side of the globe, in Stuttgart, David Beckham was kicking the Poms to victory over Equador in the World Cup.


After leaving the ute on the other side of Parramatta Road – Minor has short arms and deep pockets when it comes to paying for a park – we walked across to the Olympic Stadium, finding a bar for a beer or two in that ghostly precinct before taking our seats for the three o’clock kick-off in First Grade. Neither of us was particularly confident, especially as the Warriors got the bickies by 46-14 in the teams’ first round clash. Compounding our concerns, the Bunnies had only registered one win from fourteen starts, in the process amassing a points differential of 194 against them. But the Warriors, third last on the ladder, weren’t travelling much better, so the schooners of Reschs at least encouraged a glimmer of pale hope in our hearts.





Our vantage spot was at the south-eastern quarter line and I flicked through my Big League program as the Warriors executed their warm-up drills. Among the fluff pieces of the magazine’s earlier pages, St George-Illawarra’s coach, Nathan Brown, had a whinge about the video ref (the more things change, the more they stay the same), David Peachey told us that his first car was a Nissan Pintara and Craig Bellamy admitted that his favourite movie was ‘Happy Gilmore.’


“Go figure,” Washington Minor muttered, with tomato sauce from his overpriced cup of chips dribbling down his fingers.


Fortunately for the home side, there were not many more than 6,000 punters in attendance to see Ben Walker send the ball into touch on the full from the kick-off.


“We could be in for a long afternoon here, mate.” Minor never spoke a truer word.


The tries just kept coming, one after the other, and our mood shifted from frustration to anger.


At one point, Souths won a scrum somewhere near half-way. The ball was shunted out to Luke MacDougall who, still on the first tackle, set sail for the try-line like a bat out of hell. The only trouble was, he was running a forty-five degree angle that saw him gain about ten metres, if that.


“He’s gonna run into touch if he doesn’t straighten up soon,” I said to Minor.


He didn’t straighten up and the Warriors’ defence, without raising a sweat, escorted him over the sideline.


“That’s rubbish!” Minor shouted in disgust.


And there’s the rub. When you love a footy team, you never, ever want to bag them. But sometimes the pain is simply too much to bear – especially when you’ve paid twenty bucks at the gate to witness the carnage and are left with the hollow feeling that the boys simply turned it up.





When I look at that side now, I have to concede that it was largely made up of discards from other clubs and players whose best was either behind them or only a figment of their own imagination to begin with.


John Sutton, then 21, survived the annihilation to lead the Rabbitohs to their drought breaking premiership in 2014, and Nathan Merritt, another local junior, went on to set a still standing try-scoring record for Souths, only to be unsentimentally dropped by Michael Maguire in favour of the old trooper Lote Tuqiri for that year’s triumphant Grand Final.


Better days have come for the mighty Cardinal and Myrtle but, on that sunny winter’s afternoon, while Nicole and Keith and their A-list guests were getting stuck into the Veuve Clicquot, I could not stop myself from joining the chorus of booing that engulfed the Bunnies as they trudged from the field in disgrace.


“It’s only a game, mate.”


I agreed with Minor, but his words were hollow.


“Fancy a beer?”


You can read more of John Campbell’s rugby league pieces click here.

You can view more of John Campbell’s artwork here.


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  1. Masochism indeed, John. Imagine being a North Sydney Bears fan! But the big wins keep coming often enough to keep us enthralled.

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