May 24, the horn sounds. The Ottawa Senators' season is ended at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins. For some, interest in hockey wanes pretty quickly. Without our Sens, hockey is only given a cursory glance at best. Some still follow ardently, picking another team to cheer for as Lord Stanley's cup is presented in June. Beat writers and journalists start the rumours and guesswork almost immediately. They chase stories, follow leads, trying to turn hearsay into some sound bite that could be construed as news-worthy.
But what about us, the fans? Sure, we can spend the next month or so speculating, waxing lyrical about some player or other that could/should be a trade target. But what about the games? What about something to get our blood pumping and the thrill of seeing our team win or having us whimper softly as they lose? The football season has ended (World Cup qualifiers/ Confederations Cup notwithstanding), the American football season ended long ago (for those that like that sort of thing), and even the curlers have packed their brooms and shiny stones away for the summer.
So, friends, I have been thinking long and hard how to help my North American brethren during the next few weeks or months. In what way can I assist in the passing of time until the draft? Until the free agent frenzy? Until the spring, and training camp rolls in and we get a look at our beloved Sens and ponder what might be in the coming season? How else could I help but to NOT turn a blind eye to the sporting landscape about me? After all, it has been said that ice hockey would be Australia's favourite sport, were it not for the fact that we don't get any (or enough) snow. We do have ice hockey, true. But it's a very narrow niche. Very difficult to find if you do not know what you are looking for. What do we have to offer that could slake our thirst for contact sport? Well, we have a few options. This (may) be a two-part post where I can share some of my limited knowledge about some Aussie sports that may help you through till training camp.
National Rugby League (NRL)
Don't get this confused with rugby union, its closely related cousin. Rather than piling on the man with the ball, like in rugby, league allows the player tackled to get up and play the ball to his team mate, who then finds another way to get smashed by someone else. After five tackles, they have a kick and the other team then gets a turn. Score by crossing the line and placing some part of the ball on the ground (much like a touchdown but the ball has to be grounded by the attacker).
WHO IS GOOD:
Perennial finalists and premiership favourites. They boast a number of representative players and a great coach in Craig Bellamy. These guys are so good that in 2010, when they lost ALL of their competition points for a breach in the salary cap, they still kicked everyone's arse and would have finished fifth. Good enough to make the playoffs. They also have a Minecraft-looking guy on their logo. So there's that, too.
WHO TO SUPPORT:
South Sydney Rabbitohs
FYI a ‘rabbitoh' is colloquially someone that catches, skins and sells rabbits. Any team that has an owner like Russell Crowe has to have some star players, right? Nope, not Souths. They have just one: Greg Inglis. And he's more than enough. A former Melbourne player that was considered surplus in the aforementioned salary cap crisis, Inglis signed a healthy contract with Souths and has not played a bad game since. If you a supporter, you may just catch Russell Crowe at every home game. But, thankfully, he never grabs the microphone for a song.
WHO TO HATE:
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
The Sea Eagles are kind of like the Maple Leafs; a strange sense of entitlement mixed with a healthy dose of dirty players and sore losership (sic). They differ from Toronto in the fact that when they stop whining and complaining about things not going their way, they can actually play some good footy. Won the premiership in 2008 and 2011.
Highlights can be found for each game on the official website at nrl.com. Be sure to check it out on the weekends. There are no midweek games; they are all played Friday through Monday night.
What about your team, Mr AussieSensFan? Who do you support? My team is the Brisbane Broncos, and we're not going so well this year. We lost our Daniel Alfredsson, Darren Lockyer, last year and have struggled mightily ever since.
If you are thinking of getting into the NRL, the next month or so should be exciting as the State of Origin series is currently underway. Queensland versus New South Wales. State versus state. Mate against Mate. Queensland have won the series for the last seven (!) years in a row. NSW have won the first game this year but the next game is coming up next week, Wednesday, June 26.
EVIDENCE OF AWESOMENESS:
The guys in yellow are the Brisbane Broncos. I never realised they get pummeled so often until I watched this a couple of times.