Almanac Rugby League – Hope is all we have


by Paul Connolly



“Hope is necessary in every condition,” Samuel ‘Magic’ Johnson once wrote. “The miseries of poverty, sickness, of captivity, of being a Sharks fan, would, without this comfort, be insupportable.”


Keen scholars will realise that I added the bit about being a Sharks fan. (After all, there’s about a 200-year discrepancy between Dr Johnson’s death and Gavin Miller breaking his nose for the first time.)


I did this not to be cruel, mind, but rather to illustrate the inherent miseries involved in supporting any sporting team*, not least the Sharks who, since joining the top flight in 1967, have won precisely nothing. (Unless you count the 1979 midweek Amco Cup, or Andrew Ettingshausen’s “penis-gate” court case in 1991. And you probably wouldn’t. Unless you’re a Sharks fan.)


For all that I’m sure that every year since their formation —and this year will be no exception, what with Messrs Carney, Gallen, Smith and Gardner in the line-up—

most Sharks fans have entertained hope. As have Rabbitohs fans every season since 1971, Eels fans since 1986, Raiders fans since 1994, and Warriors and Cowboys fans since 1995, the year both premiership-less teams joined the comp.


And if it’s not quite the hope that a long-awaited premiership will be delivered —though it’s mostly that— then at the very least it’s the concessionary hope that they’ll have a real sniff.


Failing that all, of course, it’s merely the hope that the next week won’t be as bad as the one before.


As a Dragons fan I know what it’s like. Until salvation was delivered in 2010 I endured a 31-year wait for a premiership. And yet for all the pain and anguish I endured, in every one of those 31 years the possibility of winning the comp flickered inside me like the pilot light on a gas heater. Sometimes it became an inferno as a grand final appearance beckoned or was realised, sometimes (well, always) it abruptly lost its heat.


But it never quite went out. The thought of next year always kept it going.


If it was tough watching my hopes flicker and gutter as a season progressed it was arguably tougher seeing them reignite against all common sense. But that’s hope for you. Even after seven losses on the trot a subsequent win can have you hoping your team is about to embark on the greatest comeback since John Travolta went from Look Who’s Talking to Pulp Fiction. ‘Yes, here comes the long winning streak!’ you think. ‘The charge to the finals!’


That your hopes are always dashed somehow (and this is the miracle of fandom because you wouldn’t take such relentless and reliable disappointment it in any other aspect of life) doesn’t stop you going over the same ground the next time this happens. Which is probably why long-time Rabbitohs supporter Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “Hope in reality is the worst of evils because it prolongs the torments of man.”


But bugger that, Fred. Thank goodness for hope. For without it, why would be bother?


So here we are, on the cusp of another season. While the reality is that this moment, before a ball is kicked, will be as good as it gets, season 2012 is nevertheless laid out before us shiny and glinting. Anything and everything seems possible.


Hope, as Alexander Pope (Norths fan perhaps?) once wrote, springs eternal.



* Although you could argue that only Broncos fans —enjoying six (counting Super League) premierships in only 24 years— have never really endured sustained misery or the recurring crushing of hope. Storm fans seemed similarly blessed until they realised, with the stripping of their 2007 and 2009 titles, that not only can’t you count your chickens before they’ve hatched, you can’t count them after they’ve hatched either.







  1. Great little insight into the hopes all of us have at the start of a footy season,Paul.

  2. Every team is a champion right up to 1st round kick off. Then the variables come into play…

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