Carting it up with Stevo

Who to hate?

With last weeks Grand Final Qualifiers consisting of two Sydney teams and two out-of-towners, Sydney?s Daily Telegraph crafted a predictable response. That is they established one of their famous ?campaigns? to support the Sydney teams and ensure no ?Johnny Come Latelys? make the Grand Final. It?s history now that the Tele?s campaign fell flat, and we are facing with the first non-NSW Grand Final ever.

While it?s at times embarrassingly easy to Tele-bash , I can completely understand why they were searching for teams to hate. Sure the Tele is a Sydney based paper, and consequently a St George vs Bulldogs Grand Final would sell more papers this week. But buying into fans hatred this time of years is also a little like shooting fish in a barrel. As the far majority of fans lose their teams come late September, it?s often a hatred of other teams that maintains their interest. While it?s hard to support another team once yours is knocked out, it?s much easier (and often more satisfying) to deathride a club that has been irritating you for the past season or seasons. Phrases such as ?I don?t care who wins as long it?s not Manly? have been common place at many a pub, newsagents, post office and workplace during the last fifty finals series.

So after last weeks results, if the Tele is to be believed, we are now faced with a difficult decision- which team do we hate the most the Storm or the Broncos?

Being born and raised outside of Sydney I refuse to buy into the Telegraph?s siege mentality. Players, administrators and fans of Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Newcastle, North Queensland, New Zealand and Wollongong have brought such passion and commitment to the NRL and if their teams reach the Grand Final good luck to them. So with that aside, who do I hate the most Melbourne or Brisbane? Well that?s an easy decision- neither.

As much as I don?t want to admit it, I really like the Storm and the Broncos. It hasn?t always been the case. Not long after the Storm won their first premiership I became disenchanted with the club. They seemed to be playing boring football which was doing their administrators no favours in trying to attract new supporters. While I?m ashamed to admit it I started to wonder how long it will be before the NRL gave them the boot.

On the other side of the spectrum the Broncos were winning premierships with commanding performances, but as the tallest of tall poppies they became easy to hate. I also felt annoyed that for such a dominant team, with such an abundance of junior talent, they often needlessly poached players from other clubs such as Glenn Lazarus, Anthony Mundine, Gordon Tallis, Motu Tony and Luke Priddis.

But times have changed and both teams seem to have matured. The Storm are playing exciting, thrill a minute football. Some of the most enjoyable games this season has featured the team from the Victorian capital, and fans down south have appreciated it. Why not support a team that includes the likes of Slater, Inglis, Cronk and King.

The Broncos have also become more likable, relying more on the strength of their juniors and the inspiration of their veteran forwards. It?s worth noting only Brisbane developed juniors feature in their Grand Final line-up. They?ve backed the talent of players such as Darius Boyd, Tame Tupou and Karmichael Hunt and the strategy is paying off.

So despite the insistence of some of the media, I?m not going to hate anyone on Sunday. What I will do is sit back and watch two of the worthiest teams take part in what I believe will be one of the most thrilling Grand Finals in years. Bring it on.

Oh? and Melbourne by 8.