25 rounds, 192 games, #Origin on a Sunday, and a September Grand Final.
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They say a picture tells a thousand words. Why then am I so mad as to try and describe the passion held for State of Origin by the Queenslander in 750 words or less?
I?m sure the love of team is the same for the Blues supporter, but I can?t relate to it. So here are some snapshots from my memory bank as my attempt to explain the mystique of the ?Queenslander?.
Approaching Goondiwindi from the south it?s a long dusty drive on the Newell Highway. Flat, barren, ochre stained plains stretch far in every direction and balls of cotton line the road like snow.
The border is crossed and the motorist gets that first opportunity of discount Queensland fuel. Two things strike you as you make your way to the cashier. The warmth of the welcome and the plethora of Queensland paraphernalia stacked on the shelves. Balloons, key rings, shirts and banners form a sea of maroon, interrupted by a tiny speck of sky blue stashed in the corner.
Welcome to the state of fanaticism.
A tale of two pubs:
Babinda. The warm sea breeze wafts over the freshly ploughed chocolate fields that will soon be planted to cane. XXXX signs flicker and glare onto the highway. Cane toads feast on the insects attracted to the light.
Inside the locals stand as one and barrack for the boys in maroon, a raucous cheer reserved for the ?locals? ? Slater and Williams.
Wallerawang. The ice is already forming on the eaves. The smoke from power stations erupts nearby, sending a steady film of grit and charcoal into the air.
Inside the fire roars in the hearth as the coal miners discuss the coming game. Half pledge their support for the maroon underdogs because they?ve used the TAB facility to back them
You don?t support the opposition in Queensland, regardless of the circumstances.
An Empty Road:
Wednesday night, 8:30pm. Molar throbs as I drive down Townsville?s Ross River Road, a dreaded appointment with the dentist pending.
Nothings moves. No cars on the road. Windows flicker in strange unison to the light of the television. The Origin game is on. What else would one be doing?
Armageddon could happen here and no-one would know it. They?ll deal with it in the morning, providing their head isn?t too sore.
It?s 1989 and a large group of university students congregate in the lounge room in Thuringowa. They huddle in their blankets as the night is ?cold?. It will be getting below 15 degrees!
The battle on the screen is fierce. Vautin succumbs and then the crack in Langer?s leg is heard around the State. Two more heroes vanish as the punishment takes its toll. Bob Lindner?s leg also breaks but he hobbles on. The trench must be manned; the blue tide must be turned.
And then it happens ? the definitive Origin moment for the Queenslander. NSW are working the ball out from their half when it is spilled. It?s shovelled to THAT man - Wally Lewis. He is forty metres from the Blues? line, left side of the field.
The next play is etched in every Queenslanders? memory. The King crabs slowly (it seems) right. He pushes through tackles, he fends and he shimmies. It takes only seconds yet it?s a transcendent moment, one that will forever stand isolated from time. Wally Lewis crashes over in the clutches of Jack to put the game beyond doubt.
The room erupts in orgiastic excitement. Tears well in the eyes and throats roar at the spectacle. This is the thing of the boyhood dream. It is why men fight wars and hunt other creatures.
Just thirteen men with their backs to the wall. Hanging in there for each other and doing it for their State.
Unlikely victory snatched by a moment of sheer genius, anticipation and brutal effort. Delivered by that hero of all heroes. Is it any wonder that we?re so addicted?
As one we link arms. Facing the TV, excited commentators blathering, we sink to our knees and prostrate ourselves. Like a Muslim horde facing Mecca and praying, we face the grinning visage on the screen and chant as one ?Wally, Wally, Wally?.
Billy Moore stalks down the tunnel. Eyes blazing he roars ?Queenslander?. Flecks of spittle hit the camera. Ten years later it still creates goose bumps.
Who am I to follow such a wonderful tradition, no matter how small the part to play?
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