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The term ?mate-ship is bandied about the breadth of this sunburned county of ours; a term that invokes passion and pride, exemplified by the ideals of the ANZAC tradition we honour once a year.
This year it wasn?t solely the heroics and sacrifice of our serving men and women that set the tongues wagging, the term hitting our lounge-rooms, workplaces and media outlets in a barrage of opinion and debate. The ?Finch-Affair? had the forums aflutter and brought forth the usual suspects of opinionated broadcasters, armchair coaches/adjudicators and former hard men of League regularly trotted out whenever an incident of violence occurs in the game.
Now as a woman, I?ve got to tell you that mate-ship amongst my gender usually involves holding your friend?s hair while she vomits watermelon flavoured Bicardi Breezer into the grotty toilet of the local bar. For men it involves being ready with fists of fury when a friend is in the firing line of some drunken oaf at the same bar. Now if we transfer this scenario onto the football paddock we find Brett Finch sin-binned during the ANZAC day game against the Dragons and subsequently suspended.
It seems the majority of form users and abusers agree that he got what he deserved, no question. However, it is often difficult to elicit a balanced and neutral opinion, especially when it comes to certain players and particular clubs, the Roosters being at the top of the hit-list. There is no doubt that objectivity is a rare animal indeed when it comes to the club - Rooster-bashing being as much of a competitive sport on these forums as the game itself - and Finch is in the top few players who invoke the ire of the masses. The question is, how different would opinion be if the player concerned was say, Matt Bowen, from the increasingly popular North Queensland Cowboys? (P.S. I?m a fan myself; when they are on song, they are something to watch!). The point being, I think we can all admit that opinion is swayed depending on the player and club involved in any given incident.
That?s the forums, so what of the boofheads, past and present, what do they think (if at all)? Well, we?ve had big front-rowers of seasons past, ala Steve ?Blocker? Roach, come out and scoff at the fact that Finch was suspended; that players should be at the ready to defend their mates during any sort of brouhaha. Further (and spoken with an edge of disdain that comes from being a veritable brick wall during their playing careers), how much damage can a little half-back do?
Then there?s the officials, the adjudicators of the game who say that a third man in will never be tolerated as it only exacerbates the situation tempting the possibility of an all-in brawl, the like of which we haven?t seen since the late eighties. This stance however, is directly and blatantly juxtaposed by the promotors of the game who often use combative images from the past and present to highlight the gladiatorial nature of our great sport.
Officials say they want to clean up the image of the game so that mothers will let their kids participate at a junior level. Yet we have the abovementioned promos, replay upon replay of injuries, fights, as well as ?coach-cams? that are there to capture expletives and/or aggressive and emotional gestures from sideline coaches who ride every on-field play.
This is not about whether Finch should have been suspended or not. Rather, this is about the ?powers that be? in our game coming to some sort of consensus as to the exact nature of this beast we call Rugby League. Are we to revere characteristics like ?mate-ship? as a society and then punish it when it occurs within the heat and aggression of the sporting arena? Are we seeking a squeaky clean image that may ultimately sanitise the game until it resembles something more like touch football?
No-one likes to see the cheap shots and sometimes grubby tactics that we have seen over the years. But as a fan I would like to know that it?s okay to enjoy the roar of the crowd when a scuffle erupts and punches (mostly ineffectual) are thrown. Alternatively, I want to know whether it?s time to invest in a women?s clothing chain, ?cause if ?girls-blouses? are coming into season, I want to be on that gravy train!
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