Footy is life is religion is politics


Just a week earlier, at the AFL grand final, John Howard and Mark Latham were hurriedly proclaiming their allegiance to the Brisbane Lions and Port Adelaide Power respectively. With good reason too. The Lions were aiming for their fourth straight flag and the Power were labelled the big underdogs. John Howard too was aiming for his fourth straight term and Mark Latham … well, I’m sure you can see the connection.

Onto Sunday’s NRL grand final, and I’m still not sure which team our political leaders were supporting. Why? Well, there was no obvious parallel between either team and either party … or none that either wished to recognise.

This was supposed to be the grand final we’d all been waiting for – the Roosters versus the Bulldogs. Just a week before the election and in front of an audience reeling in over half of all tv viewers.

The Roosters are the team we all love to hate. Imagine having the hide to ask for a salary cap concession just because your club’s located at the richer end of town. And what about Phil Gould? Is there anyone more annoying when it comes to issues that have the capacity to effect the Roosters. Eddie Maguire’s definitely got company when it comes to conflicts of interest. Thankfully Channel 9 barred him from commentating during the game.

As it happens, more or less the same can be said of the Bulldogs. After their behaviour in Coffs Harbour they almost achieved what Rupert Murdoch and his boys failed to do several years ago – destroy the game. Also, there was no guarantee their supporters were going to behave themselves in defeat. I’m sure there was a collective sigh from NRL Headquarters when the Bulldogs got up.

The final featured plenty of mistakes but never failed to keep your interest. Right up until the final tackle of the game the outcome was uncertain – Andrew Ryan’s tackle on Michael Croker to be more precise.

The Roosters led 13-6 at halftime and had their chances. In eighteen previous matches this season they’ve led at halftime and on each occasion they’ve gone on with the job. This was to be the only exception. The Bulldogs had a great second half and in the end they were deserved premiers.

Willy Mason had a whale of a game, Sonny Bill Williams is destined for greatness and Andrew Ryan looks like a ready made replacement for Steven Price as captain. Make no mistake, the Bulldogs will be there again next year at the serious end of the season.

And the Roosters? Well, they’ve now appeared in four of the last five grand finals and only have one premiership to show for it. They will do well to counter the psychological damage that this will have on some of their players. Also, they have to contend with the departure of their most influential player, Brad Fittler. He was planning to win the premiership and pass the baton onto another to lead the club … hang on a minute, I now see a connection … a spin.

Mark, why didn’t you see it too? We would have all been retelling the joke in the tea room on Tuesday morning. What’s the difference between John Howard and Brad Fittler? Brad Fittler told us he was going to retire if he got up.

Marcus Jafari is a Sydney solicitor.

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