Us versus Them

My taxi driver didn?t take long to get to the point.

?Bloody Roosters supporters are the worst? they think they own the game!?

?You?ll need to take this turnoff.?

?No? no, you want to go to Bondi don?t you??


?Well we take the next turn??

?Yeah whatever?? I knew I just had $5.00 added to my fare. ?You were saying??

?Yeah, those bloody Roosters supporters. Bloody Ricky Stuart, bloody Robert Finch... and I don?t want to talk about bloody Phil Gould.?

?What?s your problem with Phil Gould??

?I told you I don?t want to talk about it!?

The driver was lamenting the lack of ?fair go? for his team, the Parramatta Eels, when they were beaten in a spiteful match by the Sydney Roosters earlier this year. The Eastern Suburbs side had just narrowly defeated Parramatta by 12-8 in the rain, both sides scoring two tries each. The referee was Paul Simpkins and the Eels led 8-0 at half time.

But there was more to it than that, the Cumberland cab driver had toughed it out in Sydney?s west since arriving in Australia in 1959. He started following Parramatta in 1960. To be beaten by a rich club from the east was the greatest humiliation. To this bloke, it was more than a game? it was class war!

?Don?t get me started on bloody Ryan Cross.?


?The game was ours! We were the better team but the bloody ref let them back in the last 20 minutes.?

?What?s that got to do with Cross??

?In my day, any bloody poofter that goes for the eyes always copped a good bashing.?

?Yeah, but the Eels had their chances, they were leading 8-0? I mean, you can?t blame the ref for everything.?

?What? Are you an Easts supporter??

?No?? I had to laugh. ?I just remember the same sort of stuff being said about Manly years ago??

??and they had the refs in their pockets as well,? he interrupted.

?Whatever? in all fairness, Easts did score 12 points on you late in the match. Don?t you think Parra put the cue in the rack??

?No bloody way!? the driver seemed pretty furious. ?Those bloody Roosters are cheats!?

Now... I didn?t have the ?delete post? option handy and the cab was doing 90 km/hour on the Bondi Junction by-pass. There wasn?t much I could other than to let him finish.

The fact is, the ?Us vs Them? rivalry has been going on since Adam was a boy, and it happens in every sport.

The Souths v Balmain Final of 1909 is remembered as ?the match that was never was.? Balmain refused to take part in what was billed as ?curtain raiser? event. Souths showed up, kicked off and scored a farcical try ? they were declared premiers. Balmain fans were livid, claiming that Souths had welched on an agreement and bad blood between the two fan groups has raged ever since.

One of the more infamous events occurred in 1928. Now known as the ?Earl Park Riot?, the St George vs Balmain match is remembered for the mother of all-in brawls that went on for a good portion of the afternoon. Opposing fans used fence palings as weapons and one rioter was reportedly running around with an axe!

My old uncle Paddy once told me a story of his days when he followed Newtown in the 1950s. Coming home on the match day tram, Paddy recalled that opposing fans would often disagree and this would sometimes escalate into punch ups.

?The tram would stop and the fight would spill over onto the street,? he said. ?Sometimes there was blood on the tram tracks!?

Of course these are examples of extreme fan rivalry. Plus there are more recent examples where a few beers got the better of youthful exuberance on a warm footy afternoon.

Indeed, the sincere passion of football supporters can sometimes be overwhelming. But for all its shortcomings, I doubt we?d have it any other way. Local derbies such as Cronulla vs St George and Canterbury vs Parramatta conjure up all sorts of fond memories.

With my business in Bondi done, I hailed a cab to take me back to where I was staying in Parramatta. In good time, a Taxis Combined driver picked me up on Campbell Parade.

?Parramatta please?

?No worries mate, did you see the game last night??

?Yep? What did you think??

?Bloody Parramatta supporters are the worst? they think they own the game!?

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