Magic Round drew big crowds to Suncorp Stadium and left everyone in attendance, and the thousands watching from home, with plenty of opinions and no reluctance to express them. There is so much I could say about watching the games over the weekend, but let’s begin with the positive.
From the stands I really enjoyed watching our game against the Warriors for one simple reason. That game showcased the best of what rugby league is about.
At its heart, Rugby League is a community sport that is loved by generations of families. The passion and tribalism for your team often gets passed from one generation to the next. And that passion was on display for the debut of Jake Arthur.
Like many supporters I was nervous for Jakob, his family, our club and our team. I should not have been because it was obvious from the reaction of our players to Jakob scoring his first try that they were always going to do everything they could to make this day memorable for Jakob and his family of generational Eels supporters.
I hope those people running our game at NRL headquarters watched everyone’s reaction to Jakob scoring and realised that they do not own our sport, the community does.
Administrators have a responsibility to protect our sport but they also have a responsibility to listen and bring all stakeholders together. I don’t pretend that is easy but if they don’t think they can do that then they should not be in the position they are. Our sport is definitely a business but it is also a community organisation which relies upon the passion of its people.
As a mum of a kid who plays junior league I certainly support the heavy punishment of illegal, deliberate and dangerous play. I supported every straight send off over the weekend but some of the overreactions with the sin bins were ridiculous and decided the results in games. That is not okay and as was noted numerous times over the weekend, some decisions displayed very little common sense.
From the stands my view is that the crackdown had very little to do with protecting our players and more to do with a few powerful and influential people. That might be totally untrue and unfair but that is my view and the view of most of the parents that I talked to at junior footy on Saturday morning.
When you take on the position to lead an organisation that is loved by generations of people you need to bring those people along and listen to them.
Sending out an email or putting out a media release is not working together, just as speaking to selective favourable journos to get your message across will only widen the divisions.
What did the crackdown achieve?
It made the referees villains. This is hardly going to encourage a young person to become a referee. It created memes out of some of our best players such as Tedesco, and it created a further gap between the participants in our game and its leadership.
For any rule to truly work, we need to get everyone on the same page. From the stands what I saw was not leadership and will only turn people away from our sport, not bring them together.
On Sunday, in Parra’s game, our club came together. The administrators, the players, the coaches and the supporters. Hopefully those in the commission and those working at NRL headquarters reflect on why everyone was so happy when Jakob scored. Hopefully in the coming weeks egos are put aside and common sense is applied. I am not sure that I believe that will be the case but I will be very happy to be proven wrong.
So we now turn to this week, and what an opportune time to showcase the great rivalry between the Eels and Manly.
When my Eels play a game, I normally want us to both play well and win.
However, against Manly that goes out the window. I don’t really care how well we play on Sunday, I simply want us to win.
You cannot artificially create rivalries and passion. I am sure more learned people can explain the detailed history of our clubs and why the rivalry exists but for me it is simple.
For as long as I can recall I have disliked Manly. Everyone in my family looks forward to this game and wants a win. Over the years the fortunes of both clubs have changed but that passion and distinct dislike for each other has remained.
Passionate, loyal, dedicated fans for both teams will turn up on Sunday in their thousands to cheer on their players. I only hope the officials and administrators allow the players to decide the game.
As much as I respect referees, my family and I do not want to make the combined 5 hour round trip on Sunday to watch the officials. We want to watch the next chapter in the rivalry between Parra and Manly written.
Let’s hope for everyone’s sake some common sense is applied, not just for our game this weekend but for everyone involved in the great game of Rugby League.