Forum Sevens:
Tribal Mentality of Rugby League Supporters

I was never brought up with sports at a young age. We migrated into Australia when I was 11 back in 1975, the year the Roosters won back to back premierships. My father was an astute businessman running the family business, my mom didn?t know the difference between Beetson & Beetroot, my sister was still figuring how the world works at a tender age of 2.

I did however marvel at the likes of Beetson, Fairfax, Schubert, Peard, et al. Coming from a country where picking pockets are regarded as contact sport, it was difficult to fathom why humans would collide with such force for no apparent gain. Little did I know that this was the start of my passion for Rugby League.

I was fortunate enough to have neighbors explain the subtleties of Rugby League. My understanding for the game grew further as I attended school, an attempt to assimilate if you like. By this time the Roosters had won the premiership in 1975. With my father announcing that we would be moving from our house in Strathfield to Rushcutters Bay, call it karma but I suddenly find myself in the midst of Rooster territory. Add to this that I attended the same school as Kevin Hastings, it was a done deal, I was a Rooster without even knowing it.

Kids around me talked Rugby League all the time. I remember attending my first game of Rugby League. The atmosphere is something I will never forget. The crowd seemed divided into 3 distinct groups, supporters from either teams and neutrals. The colors you wore with pride. The cheers & chants whipped up by fanatical support was as if it was daring the opposition to cross an imaginary line.

Thousands of supporters from every walk of life gathered as one as if old friends but never really knowing each others name. They share the joy?s of triumph and the despair of defeat. Such is the tribal culture of Rugby League supporters.

Contrary to some opinions, tribes do not share a common geographic location. Tribal members for most part come from all points of the compass. They gather at a given point in time as if drawn by some mythological force in rally to support their warriors in battle. With them they carry their hope of a victory over their despised opponents. Their weapons are their voices, their strength in numbers.

Race, religion nor creed hold no relevance in tribal support. All that mattered was which team your heart belonged to. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a tribe as a group of people sharing a common interest or character. They should include ?ref: Chook Pen ? Aussie Stadium?.

Tribal support of their warriors is one to behold. As if cast back in biblical era?s gone by, we revere our warriors who draw upon seemingly superhuman strengths the likes of which would move mountains fighting for every inch of hallowed ground. Moses may have parted the red sea but I would be surprised if the cheers were louder than that of Fittler splitting the defense 10m out. Words such as courage, pride & commitment adorn our creed as if written in blood spilled by warriors of days gone by.

It is somewhat amazing that a tribe can exist without an apparent structure. Typical tribal gatherings often have their elders and some form of social structure. Tribal Supporters loyal to the Roosters cause have no need for such structures. It?s charter is understood by all, its values passed from one game to the next. It?s elders speak from within its sacred catacombs in Bondi. Voices need not be raised from within to rally support from tribal members. As sure as the sun rises from the east so shall the support for our warriors from Bondi.

The prize which all tribes seek comes in early October. It is then where two tribal cultures remain and thirteen others regroup for the next calling. For the two tribes, aspirations of the ultimate prize are within grasp. Both tribes taunt each other in hope of exposing weaknesses in character. Old wounds are exposed, it seems that all is fair game. Tribes already eliminated join in the banter as if to quench their insatiable thirst for tribal contest.

But alas, there can be only one winner. With Tribal gods looking from above, their purpose, to guide the righteous team to victory. In defeat comes hope that one day, they too may be worthy winners.

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