Our weekly look at all sixteen #NRL 21-man squads ahead of the penultimate round of the 2017 Premier...
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Following on from the remarkable success of the Wests Tigers this year, here is a story by one of our regular Forum 7?s writers who has taken a tongue-in-cheek look at their semi-final campaign after his beloved Warriors failed to make it past the regular season.
In Albert Camus?s philosophical treatise-cum-novel ?The Outsider?, the main character Meursault is sentenced to death for murder, with the fact that he failed to cry at his mother?s funeral a few days earlier a damning feature of the character evidence against him. Perhaps Warriors fans would sentence me to death if they knew that I hadn?t cried when we missed the top 8 this year. However, like Meursault, I long ago accepted that life is just a succession of absurdities, and it?s only natural that tragedies await us at every turn. As Meursault might have said, it was only natural that the Warriors would miss the 8 when they had a questionable back line and no attacking creativity whatsoever in the forwards. Like Meursault, I had failed to ?play the game?, to act out a role in the grotesque play that is human existence. Meursault watched a Fernandel comedy and slept with a woman he barely knew, on the day after his mother?s funeral; I started supporting the Wests Tigers as soon as the Warriors? season ended.
Yes, as Kent Brockman once said, treason season started early this year. There was a definite element of premeditation to my crime- I had been semi-secretly cheering the Tigers on for most of the season, inspired by a love of attacking rugby league, and an admiration for Benji Marshall that almost reached the depths of affection that he reserves for Scott Prince. This was undeniable rugby league infidelity- as much as I enjoyed Sione Faumuina?s manful attempts to bring a little razzle-dazzle to the insipid, defensively orientated Warriors, I enjoyed Benji?s sidesteps and no-look passes more. Indeed, after perusing the match highlights from the Warriors? handful of entertaining games at nrl.com, I went on to watch Benji and the Tigers? Round 21 demolition of the Sharks at least three times. It was my dirty little secret- the curtains were drawn, the volume was down low, the door was shut, and the cursor hovered over Close, in case anyone walked in on me. The only thing missing was the half empty box of tissues.
Luckily, my bigamous perversions have become increasingly acceptable over the last few weeks. This is the time of year where fans, desperate to feel the thrill of victory, pick a team to support throughout the finals. If that team loses, you can always pick another, and so on, so that you can see ?your team? through to the Grand Final year after year. Of course, this can be merely an exercise in soulless self-delusion, but it can also be genuinely exciting. Anyone who witnessed the vigour with which Sydneysiders leapt onto the North Queensland bandwagon last year can attest to this. The Tigers, who haven?t made the finals for 16 years, are the obvious choice for this year?s bandwagon jumpers. However, they are certainly not the only option; Minor Premiers Parramatta also have rather an underdogs come good vibe going on, mainly due to their halves, Tim Smith and John Morris. This pairing was supposed to be the Eel?s Achilles heel in 2005, but instead both players have become fan favourites and perfectly groomed fashion icons. The Storm are also threatening to upset the pundits as they did in 1999- their bandwagon will surely be well populated by pro-expansion zealots if they maintain their current form for much longer.
Camus might have said that the prevalence of bandwagon fans in September shows us that loyalty is a mere convenience, proof that each life is no more than a string of self-serving actions veiled by a network of concepts that fraudulently make us appear empathetic, moral, and civilised. He might have had a point. I?d say that the more bandwagon fans we have, the better health the NRL is in. Bandwagon fans can?t bear to drag themselves away from this great competition, despite their team?s absence. Bandwagon fans add to ratings, crowd figures, and atmosphere.
We may be an indictment on the desperate nature of the human condition, but we temporary traitors are the lifeblood of the finals. When Benji no-look passes his way to glory this weekend, I?ll be cheering. When Brett Hodgson hits a hole the weekend after, I?ll be roaring like an Ashes-winning English cricketer. And when the gutsy, undersized Tigers? pack overcomes all odds on October 2, I may well shed a tear of bandwagon joy. And if they lose, well, I?ll just pretend I was supporting the other team.