One of my gripes with American football has always been that nothing ever seems to be happening. If you pay as little attention to it as possible (which I do), they always seem to be lining up, hands on the ground, backsides in the air, and then they all crash into each other. And maybe someone will be lucky enough to throw the ball, but then whoever catches it gets tackled, too. Then, they all stand around some more, and then it begins again. They’ve gained a foot or two. Wheeee.
Now, I was completely unsure of what I was getting into when I came downstairs to watch the State of Origin game, but I was going to watch at least some, just to say I had. My only idea of rugby, ahead of time, was that they didn’t wear extra padding and helmets, so it was a full-contact sport, and potentially dangerous. Did I know anything else about it? Not so much.
As I’m living in Queensland, my family had a Maroon team flag hanging by the television, just for the game, and the guys were all wearing Maroon shirts. They pronounce it “Ma-rone”, by the way. I guess it must sound weird when I say it, then. Anyway, I perched on the back of the couch, with a copy of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie in my hand, prepared to continue reading if the game got dull, or when the commercials came on. Yes, Americans, you read that right, and I didn’t make that book name up. I’ll tell you about it later. As it happens, I put the book down, several minutes into the game, and didn’t pick it up again. It also helps that during a live rugby football game, there are only one or two commercials, here and there. I could get used to that.
The introduction stuff began, and one of the first shots you see is in the dressing room, where they’re all dressed already, thankfully. : ) But the first impression I got was that these guys look a little bit like soccer players, in the way they dress, but they’re a lot brawnier. A lot. They’ve got to be fast and extremely strong, able to take any knock that comes their way, without staying down, and continue to do that for 80 minutes of play.
The game began with Australia’s National Anthem, “Advance Australia Fair”, sung by an Australian group, The Ten Tenors. Let me tell you, if you can’t hear your own national anthem, you should hear this one, sung by that fantastic group. It was awesome.
And so, they begin. I quickly discovered that the gist of the game isn’t all that hard to follow. Of course, I don’t understand all the finer details, but this was much more my style. I’m an Ultimate Frisbee and volleyball girl, so I prefer games that are played mainly with the hands, and this was much more a hand game than a foot game, or so it seemed. Despite the actual name of football.
The ball looks a bit like an American football, but it’s a good bit bigger. As the teams start out, a player runs with it, and promptly gets tackled to the ground (or at least halted), then he gets up, and rolls the ball behind him. Another of his teammates picks it up and throws it (underhand, I think) to another teammate. They can only throw sideways or back, never forward. The team members continue to toss it to the side or back, until one of them sees an opening, and runs for it, and usually gets tackled by the opposite team. They’re allowed up to six tackles, and then they have to kick the ball. And it just doesn’t stop! No long discussions about all the plays, while you wait for them to get on with it, no, it’s go, go, go!
When the ball gets kicked, sometimes it’s low to the ground, and sometimes it’s really high. Any of them can be caught by either team, so the ball will sometimes change hands at this point. Even if someone scores, the game keeps going, no stopping. You score by touching the ball down in the end zone (I think it’s called a try), and if you score (4 pts), you get a try at kicking it through the goal posts (an extra 2, if you make it).
And do these guys get clobbered! Eighty minutes total, even with a halftime, and they’re running at top speed, and getting slammed to the ground, continually. I don’t understand how they don’t get broken bones and necks at every single tackle. These guys are beasts, unstoppable! I hurt, just watching them.
It was interesting, as I watched, knowing that Queensland was going for it’s 6th consecutive State of Origin win, while New South Wales (home to Sydney) wanted to take back the title. The first game of the round of three, to win it would make the NSW Blues much more confident about taking home the trophy. You could see it, as the Maroons took the lead for the first half of the game. And then the Blues finally scored, and got a goal kick, putting them in the lead. But at the last, the Maroons scored once or twice more (forgive me, I forget), and there was no time left for a comeback. And right after the “hooter” blew, ending the game, a couple of the players got into a fight, but once it was broken up, I guess the referee decided there was no point in declaring penalties anymore. They all lined up and shook hands, like good sports.
I could get used to watching a game like this, all about speed, strength, and endurance. They have to be able to kick, as well as throw and catch, but you can see their faces, and no helmets are in the way of the audience. Some of the guys where some sort of… soft looking helmet, by choice, but most of them don’t. Somebody could be killed, quite easily, in this game, and I know they have in the past, before they changed the rules around for the players’ safety. No, I don’t know what the changes were.
So, there you have it. My first rugby league football game, as played in the 1st of the 2011 State of Origin games. I’d highly recommend watching THIS sport. And now, I shall return to Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.
[If interested, please see one of my previous posts, “state of origin“.]