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The Sydney Sporting Double – Back-To-Back Thrillers a Long Way From Home

Back-To-Back Thrillers a Long Way From Home


It’s not often that Rugby League is a highly talked about event in the Southern states. Particularly in the South Australian country, some of the most fertile AFL production ground in the nation, many of which honed their skills combining local footy with work on the land and at times, with a shearers handpiece.


Nevertheless State of Origin Rugby League is enormously popular in country South Australia, perhaps deep down a lot of people miss the great days of the 1980’s with SA, WA and the Big V featuring in the mid week State of Origin footy (apologies to my Northern mates, but I’ll refer to AFL as footy and rugby league as league). Despite the Mid North region of South Australia being in reasonably close proximity to the Western New South Wales border, the support for Queensland is pretty strong. It’s probably a bit of little brother syndrome, with New South Wales seen as the big boy, much like in cricket, with Queensland the over achieving little brother, like SA and the Big V back in the 80’s.


Perhaps Tourism New South Wales were on to something, but the scheduling of State of Origin, followed by the Swans against the Hawks, proved to be an enticement too good not to take up for a sport loving South Aussie.


Stop one, a venture out West and my first state of origin sporting experience since going to an AFL State of Origin match at Football Park back in the 90s. But off the train and in to the stadium, home of the highly successful 2000 Olympics.


In to the first forty and the Maroons are on the board in no time. Greg Inglis powering over the line to get the scoreboard ticking. A return of service from the Blues Tyson Frizell, but without a successful conversion Queensland held a narrow lead.


The second half began with a bang, with Anthony Fifita storming across for a try. Shortly after he would be involved again when Gavin Cooper scored a try for the Maroons, before Fifita ventured across for a bit of push and shove, before spending some time in the sin bin. At that point, the passion in the crowd was in full force. “Cop that you Cane Toad” was probably one of the most memorable sledges I’d heard from behind the fence.


Queensland looked to be set for a clean sweep, when James Tamou had a hiccup, before Darius Boyd read the ball beautifully for another try. Then two unusual happenings occurred, firstly Jonathon Thurston, Rugby League’s version of Andrew McLeod missed a straight forward conversion. There must’ve been a few Southerners in the crowd, as I do remember hearing a Travis Cloke sledge. But then with almost no time left on the clock, the Blues got up off the canvas and Michael Jennings scored the winning try in front of some super appreciative Blues fans.


A great event, a great finish and the thought in the back of my brain, as to how hard would it be to host an Origin match at Adelaide Oval? Only to find out a few days later that Perth had already jumped the gun. Perhaps deep down, I really do miss the AFL version of State of Origin. Maybe Foxtel can replay some of those matches during retro round? I would love to watch the 1993 SA defeat of Victoria at the MCG, the first win at the G since the 1963 side, which featured my late Grandfathers cousin, Geoff Bray and one of my Grandmother’s former students at the Orroroo Primary School, John Cahill.


But back to the sporting journey, the next stop, Thursday night, off to Moore Park for the Swans and Hawks SCG blockbuster.


As a regular attendee at Adelaide Crows matches and most things cricket at Adelaide Oval and a regular on public transport, I was keen to get along to the SCG, with the administrator in me eager to see how everything operated. A short bus trip distance wise from the city was exactly that, but peak traffic in Sydney on a Thursday night is a battle in itself. It’s a long way from country SA, where the biggest traffic concern is often a back log of trucks at the local silo, or livestock carriers waiting for a free loading ramp at the Jamestown markets. But the prospect of a light rail connection should hopefully ease the issue.


Traffic aside, it was time to bunker down for what was the most anticipated match of the round, the reigning premiers, travelling North to take on the challenger, whom many people fancy for the flag.


It proved to be a game that delivered. The Swans seemed to be pushing to break the game open in the first quarter, but like all good teams, Hawthorn seized the opportunities when presented and managed to keep themselves in the hunt.


Post quarter time, the Hawks seemed to be on the better end of an arm wrestle, managing to put a few majors on the board, while keeping the Swans quiet. You could almost sense the big brothers about to bully the Swans, but to their credit they managed to work their way back in and a great final quarter was to be on show.


But as we’ve almost become accustomed to, Hawthorn simply found a way to get across the line. Sam Mitchell was his usual ball gathering self, but for mine, when the game was up for grabs, Shaun Burgoyne took up the challenge. Referred to as silk for good reason, his use of the ball was sublime, ever efficient, making it near impossible to shut down a player of such class. But not to be outdone, there had to be a crucial Rioli goal and, in the view of some in the crowd, a little bit of officiating controversy to add some spice to the final result.


It would be no surprise to see these two sides clash again in the finals, but with the way the Hawks are firing at the moment, it’s looking ever harder to see if anyone can stop them. But the way this season has been panning out, the moment a side appears to be set for destiny, up come the hurdles. It will be an interesting couple of months, that’s for sure.


As for my trip, well done Sydney, the sporting double was a great experience. As a parochial South Aussie, it was also nice to see some premium food and wine from this part of the world on the menu. If we could just add some more prime lamb, my home, the Mid North and Flinders Ranges of country SA will be over the moon!

About James Lang

A committed volunteer who loves Australia's game. Based in Jamestown in South Australia's Mid North, the birthplace of RM Williams, I work closely with the local Football, Netball and Cricket clubs. A rewarding involvement has been in establishing the social interaction group Backyard Football League Australia.


  1. Dave Brown says

    Or a freight train stopped at Gladstone, blocking the Horrocks Highway. Top couple of games to attend James. Reckon you’re spot on re. the liking for State of Origin. It’s something we really miss though can’t ever see it coming back. 1993 was great, A. Jarman giving it to the crowd after the siren.

  2. James Lang says

    At least there’s a canteen at the sale yards and the food van at the silos. It’s far more enjoyable to wait whilst sampling a steak sandwich with “the lot”.

    As for state of origin, perhaps it’s time to start the push for Fox Footy to include the old state matches in the retro round coverage. Before there was a true national league, it was the only chance to see the game’s greatest players come together.

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