Once upon a time there was a little boy.
This little boy was just like any other boy of his age. In fact, he was completely average but for one fact ? he did not follow any winter sporting code. For a young Australian boy on the verge of adulthood this was a very serious matter indeed.
So serious in fact, that one night in his dreams he was met by four great sporting ghosts. They entered through his opened window and sat at his feet.
?Excuse me,? said the tallest ghost, nudging the young boy. ?We have been sent here the great ghost Sir Don, to sort out a very serious matter. Our records indicate that you have not chosen a winter sport to follow. Is that right??
?Ah...yes,? said the young boy, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
?Right, we?re off to sort this out,? said the tallest ghost. Suddenly the entourage were seated behind the goal at the MCG. It was November 1997. The great ghost Johnny floated in front of the boy.
?This is the great game of football, or what you would call soccer,? he announced proudly as Australia scored to lead 2-nil. ?It is played in every country, by virtually everyone. And very soon Australia will have a front row ticket at the World Cup for the first time since 1974.?
?Why don?t they hold the ball?? asked the young boy.
?It?s not part of our game, you little slimy toad-eating brat ...?
The great ghost Johnny launched into a lengthy spray that involved several lewd descriptions of the little boy?s mother and several varieties of farm animals. By the time Iran scored their second goal to knock Australia out, he collapsed into a great heap and vanished.
?Lets move on,? said the tallest ghost. Suddenly the scene changed. The soccer goals were replaced at each end by two large poles and two smaller poles. The players ran around with sleeveless shirts and tight shorts. And the round ball had changed to an odd oval-shaped ball which defied physics and logic. It was September 1989.
The great ghost Ron stood forward. ?This is the 1989 AFL Grand Final Day?.
One man stood out amongst all the players. One of the spectators called him God, which only confused the little boy. God missed a kick at goal and the Cats trailed by only twelve points.
The little boy turned to the great ghost Ron and asked, ?Why do they give points for missing??
The great ghost Ron launched into a fit, calling the boy a spy from somewhere north sent to infiltrate the Victorian way of life. By the time he had ended, not even God could prevent Hawthorn winning the premiership, and the great ghost Ron disintegrated into smoke.
?Lets move further north,? said the remaining two ghosts, and the scene changed to Telstra Stadium.
The great ghost Gordon beamed with pride.
?This is the 2003 Rugby World Cup final,? he announced. ?And we will win!?
A sea of yellow faced the trio. The match was nearing the end of extra time. The little boy announced. ?I have two questions. Why is the crowd singing about a suicidal swagman that has to resort to livestock for sexual gratification, and does the referee even understand half of the rules??
The usually unflappable Gordon exploded in embarrassment and rage. ?Get out of here! Your blue collar values have no place here in this brave new world?.oh crap!? And as Wilkinson kicked the winning goal, the great ghost Gordon disintegrated into a heap.
The scene automatically changed to NRL Grand Final Night 2004.
The great ghost Clive sat beside the boy. ?You have chosen well."
?I may look small but I stood tallest among all my contemporaries. In the same way, rugby league may look small or insignificant against other sports, but we stand tallest among them all. Our tackles are hard, unlike soccer. Every point is earned, unlike AFL. Our action is non-stop, unlike rugby union. And the little man can compete with the big man on an equal setting, unlike all three. The Greatest Game Of All.?
The tallest ghost and the little boy looked out over the scene before them. The last strains of Advance Australia Fair echoed around the stadium. The little boy turned to the great ghost Clive and, as he had done with all three, asked his defining question.
?Clive, do you think the Cowboys can win this game??
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