Letter to Manila

I thought that this week I would share an edited version of a letter which I sent to a long standing friend who lives in Manila.


Last evening a marquee sports event in the Australian calendar took place, that is the third and deciding “State of Origin” Rugby League clash between Queensland and NSW.


I don’t know if you’re across this particular aspect of our Australian way of life but winter sports here is roughly divided into 4 football codes, first of all “soccer” (known as football in most parts of the world) which is slowly getting a real following here and is played in all states. Then there is Rugby Union, played mostly in NSW and Queensland with outposts in Melbourne and Perth. Rugby League which is a variant of the former, peculiar to Australia (meaning Queensland and NSW with one team based in Melbourne, which is top at the moment), and to lesser extent New Zealand where “Union” is the national winter sport. And then there is Australian Rules, the predominant winter sport in the rest of Australia.


The background to the State of Origin is that until 1980 fiercely contested clashes between NSW and Queensland were based on teams made up of players currently playing in those states. It usually resulted in one sided wins to NSW because a lot of Queensland played in the Sydney League because such a move was more remunerative for them. This meant then that there were Queensland players playing for NSW.


In 1980 the first State of Origin game took place. This was now different because players were picked on the basis of their home state not the team that they were playing for now. It occurred, and still does, that a situation developed where players playing for the same club team would play against each other for their state and this developed into a “State against State, mate against mate” contest. When it first started most thought that it would be a one match wonder because club loyalties would override a somewhat artificially selected state side with the belief that players would not enter into any game being fair dinkum because injuries would mess up club sides. I.e. club loyalties would override state games.


It has not worked out like that at all. Indeed these games, 3 each year, have developed into possibly the most exciting part of the Australian ethos and why? Because these games are the most fiercely played sporting event imaginable and also there is the intense interstate rivalry which has gained traction over the years to the point where almost the entire country takes a keen interest in the sport even if most AFL followers don’t have a clue about the rules of League, the main one being incidentally no forward passing of the ball. In so far as Queensland and NSW are concerned, initially most of the rivalry was generated in Queensland because of the feeling that NSW was “poaching” their best players and that really Queensland would always prove to be the better side if the playing field was equal as it were. NSW denizens initially didn’t develop quite the same feeling because being a Queenslander is, well, just something different and was a source of slightly wry amusement as to why the whole thing was taken so seriously. Now they take it as seriously as the Queenslanders perhaps because these days they can never win these series but are always hoping.

Last night the series was won by Queensland by what is known as a”drop goal” that is one point being scored by drop kicking the ball over the cross bar. This was their seventh-straight series win.


As an avowed Aussie Rules follower I yearn for the day when this could catch on in our code although it has to be said that unfortunately the dynamics are completely different. These “dynamics” include the fact that the scoring system in “Rules” allows games to be over in a comparatively short time if one side (always Victoria sadly) gets a break, the game is virtually over. In addition, from my perspective as a South Australian I always see these contests as being strictly South Australia v Victoria which, given the popularity of the sport leaves out for one, Western Australia who indeed in their own right would also be very competitive. It is certainly a fact, though, that any fair dinkum games between either Western Australia and Victoria (“The Big Vics”) or South Australia and Victoria would generate as much feeling as has been described above. Another dynamic is unfortunately that club loyalties will always override state loyalties because of injury concerns. Finally, combatants in Rugby League can aspire to play for Australia even if the opposition is mostly New Zealand who are pretty good a lot of the time, and an English team made up of players who mostly come form a small area in the north of the country. Given that the whole concept originated in “Rules” I say, “Come on let’s do it. Give it some decent prize money and at the end of the year play two teams, say “Australia 1 v Australia 2″ selected from the best of the best and again with some decent prize money attached. Who wouldn’t want to play in what would really be the best team in the country. Club loyalties are demeaning our sport”. By the way, there is an argument that such a contrived event like this would never gain traction but I reckon that the AFL public would love to see “State Against State” held during the year followed by a game involving the best 42 players in the land a week after the Grand Final” It might take years to build up but Aussie Rules is getting to be far too complacent.


In the light of John Clarke’s programme last night I have to confess that during the game I gave my fitness campaign a huge fillip by devouring 3 over cooked over hot pies drowned in Australia’s national drink, tomato sauce, followed up a couple of hours later a rather large helping of ice cream. The drinks consisted of a bottle of beer, a glass of some indeterminate clear skin red and coffee with some sugar and more than possibly some salt as well as I mixed up sachets in a dark room.


Incidentally, I don’t recall any Australian crowd singing the national anthem along with a singer or group who usually manage to murder it. It is simply not part of our culture to do this, indeed most would rather die than be caught singing in public. Well last night we had a soloist singing it a capella and the television audience could hear it echoing from the stands. I am not normally impressed by such things because I think that nationalistic fervour can sometimes do more harm than good, but I have to admit that in this instance I treated it as a reminder as to how damned lucky we are to live in this country. That is not to say that there isn’t always room for improvement and, therefore, no room for complacency but that’s a discussion for another day.


Now to equally as important matters.


Carlton did Collingwood, and as I have quoted him previously, if Archbishop  Tutu followed Aussie Rules he would say, “Yippee”! As I have huge doubts that he might, then I am forced to in his stead say, nay shout, “Yippee”! At last Betts and Yarran got going again and showed the sort of form that had us all talking all of those weeks ago. I suppose that I should mention Judd as well.  And really the Pies looked pretty ordinary, amazing really as in the last ten weeks they have looked pretty much invincible. I kept thinking to myself during the game, “How long can Carlton keep this up, how long before Collingwood storm to the lead and overrun this mob”? What a season this no one has any idea really who the Grand Finalists are going to be.


I don’t like St Kilda, so therefore I was forced to barrack for Essendon. I was reminded a bit of the plot of the play “Amadeus” in which Salieri bemoans the apparent music composing skills of a young Mozart viz a viz his own and asks God how such a person can be allowed to prosper when he, Salieri has given his life to God in exchange for his own gift of composition, apparently to little effect. Well I feel the same about Milne. How can such a player can be so good? But he is, so I suppose that I should grudgingly say, “Good luck to you”, 5 goals in a 250th game (in itself a magnificent achievement) was remarkable. Meanwhile, Essendon too were made to look pretty ordinary. Terrible luck for Hurley who has been looking terrific over the past few weeks..


Adelaide beat the Powerless. I thought that the game might have been closer. Also this bloke Henderson has not previously crossed my radar. Sam Jacobs certainly has though and again he got it all together, 61 hit outs was it?


The West Coast-North Melbourne match was a real test for the Eagles and the fact that they were able to come back from 35 points down including having the eight goals in a row scored against them is a real testament to how good they are this year. More particularly it is a testament as to how good Dean Cox is under pressure. Fabulous last goal from him when it was really needed. North Melbourne were pretty stiff I think.


Richmond beat Melbourne, but at least the Demons gave a decent account of themselves. They were thrashed in the first part of the game but weren’t entirely annihilated.


Unlike the Sprawls who were. Once again they have completely lost their gloss as far as I’m concerned. They did other teams at the top no favours at all by allowing Hawthorn to get that huge percentage boost.


I thought that my mob might beat Sydney but if anyone were to beat them I am glad it was the Swans because it now gives them top spot on the ladder and yet even now there seem to be doubts as to their viability at what is fast becoming the business end of the season… Next week will be telling in that regard, West Coast  “over there” will be  a huge challenge.


Freo stay in the mix for the eight with their win over the Bulldogs but they have a terrible percentage. How good is Pavlich! Another 6 goals in a great captain’s effort.


The Suns were very competitive against Geelong but you always felt that the Cats had their measure. Nevertheless this was a very encouraging performance by them, just wish that they could sustain the form into next week.


Highlight: Couldn’t make up my mind between Tod Carney’s sideline conversion and Cooper Cronk’s field goal. “Lo” Light,  the two young Richmond players abusing once in a lifetime chances that life has given them.

About Peter Schumacher

Wannabe footy commentator and writer, used to be a wannabe footballer


  1. Hi Pete,

    Just in case you are unaware we formed the PNRL in Nov.2011 & we’ve started to bring Rugby League to the Philippines in the province of Zambales. Check out our website & FB page for details.


    Erick Elefante
    PNRL – Secretary

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