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The radio crackles into life. It?s an old Pacemaker Transistorised-58, made by C&B, sold by H.W Clarke distributors, and the second portable model ever manufactured in New Zealand. Being a valve radio its tone has a pleasing warmth, and it?s so, well?old. By listening to it I?ve gained a new appreciation for the workmanship of days gone by.
My work involves buying for a retail company. We move millions of low to upper-middle end product based on consumer demand, and, damn it, people want cheap stock. Moreover, it has to be bigger, better, faster etc; the whole Six Million Dollar Man experience.
Whenever I open a cupboard, one of the small electrical appliances I?ve bought over the years attacks. Some of them have kept going quite nicely but the desire to upgrade and own the latest and greatest has consigned others to a different fate. You need only surf through E-Bay to see the fearsome volume of rubbish available for you to proudly own.
The modern game of rugby league is much the same. Sure, we get a good package -- the game is played fantastically -- and it?s very much how people like it. League is a regularly scheduled meal delivered on time, in sound-bite-size portions. Sustenance for the masses, live via satellite. The game is becoming just another event, and that gives it a finite life-cycle and appeal.
I used to read about legendary players? great deeds, and every time they grew larger. Nostalgia distorts, but a writers? talent or the imagination provide when guided by a skilled radio commentator allow an outstanding feat to transcend the superlative.
Around the same time as my vintage radio trundled off of the productions line the Kangaroos embarked on the 1959/60 tour of Great Britain, France & Italy. In subsequent years they even played South Africa. Thirty-seven matches later found over four hundred-thousand spectators had watched them play. I wonder what some of the three thousand plus onlookers in Treviso, Italy, thought about their match? Names like Gasnier and Raper were enshrined as heroes so successive generations of fans were reminded of their importance. We have been blessed with players of incomparable ability too, such as Lockyer and Johns, but they haven?t been able to walk upon the same world stage. They have had a wider television audience, but the downside is the absence of mystique. If anyone wants the story re-told they can just watch the replay.
Vodafone Warriors? crowds have been quite poor this year, despite a brief run of success, but last month fourteen thousand patrons turned up on the back of a warm-up match featuring some recent notables of NZ rugby league. James Leuluai, Fred AhKuoi and Kurt Sorenson, among others, weren?t from the era of the ?Immortals? but their impact on the Kiwi psyche was significant. In a time where NZ was finding a modern identity via the unity the nuclear warship ban fostered, they brought success to a national side starved of it for so long.
Those who support South Sydney do so because of its heritage, its previous success, or because they grew up in its back pocket; as part of their life. No amount of slick presentation and graphics can replicate that. There will always be a Wayne?s World ?build it and they will come? element, but while it may get them to the games it may not encourage them to stay. Fans are the pot of gold at the end of the rugby league rainbow.
Pay TV was kicked to touch this year in favour of broadband, and using my VCR for what nature, or Sony, intended. I prefer watching games live, to enjoy life?s experiences, but more and more the throw-away nature of the game grates. As I become older - and grumpier, because I?ve promised to age disgracefully - the realities of commercialism, the unchecked media attention, and the many corporate bones being thrown to the public dogs are all getting a bit much.
In an effort to pull myself back from the brink of surrounding events removing any lustre from the game I?ve begun listening to commentary on the Pacemaker. From the outset of the last game against Cronulla it was obvious I?ll need the medical version if I?m going to continue doing so. I haven?t been so wound-up during a match for ages. Some will say it?s a side-effect of supporting the Warriors, but I prefer to blame an old kind of magic.