DOING THE DIRTY

Sometimes in life, it is perfectly okay to do the dirty.

Hear me out.

Maybe you are loyal to the golden arches, but one day only a Whopper will do.

You might be a caffeine fiend, but occasionally you will try a chai.

Your heart might belong to Ramsey Street, but you holiday in Summer Bay.

Sometimes in life, it doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition.

So here it is: [Braces for inevitable cacophony of objection] It is okay to follow both the NRL and the AFL.

Hello….? Are you still with me….? Is this thing on…?

I realise this is a contentious proposition.

Full disclosure: I am Melburnian. I barrack for the mighty Dees. I am forever looking for the fixture on the NRL website, not the draw. I tend to ask who was ‘Best on Ground’ despite repeatedly being told that we call it ‘Man of the Match’. I try to keep abreast of news at the tribunal, always forgetting that we call it the judiciary.

And as a proud Melburnian and even prouder Melbourne Storm supporter, I am here to put the case forward for ‘doing the double’, having have seen both sides of the NRL v AFL debate.

‘Debate’ is probably a euphemism. Perhaps ‘battle’ would be more apt.

NRL fans call AFL ‘aerial ping pong’. AFL fans call NRL ‘thugby’. NRL fans call AFL players soft. AFL fans call NRL players ‘bum sniffers’ (an unfortunate reference to our scrums, in case you are wondering). And so it goes.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. It is okay to enjoy both.

Let us take a moment to consider the very subjects that spark all of this conjecture – the players. For the most part they seem perfectly happy to co-exist, working together side-by-side to deliver the utmost in Victorian sporting entertainment. (Victoria the state, that is, not the Victorian period. That would be weird. Imagine the boys playing croquet or lawn tennis.)

My very own husband has committed to follow the mighty Dees at my insistence. He is forever marvelling at the fitness and stamina of AFL players, and was as proud as punch when our game produced two athletes in Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau, who were able to make the switch.

And the love affair is by no means one-way. Hawthorn Football Club’s Shaun Burgoyne counts himself as a rugby league fan, having followed the game now for about 8 years. He cites the physical differences between the two types of athlete as the most marked difference, and suggests if any AFL were to ever make the jump to the NRL, that they may like to pack on a few kilos first!

Shaun’s interest in the game began when he himself went professional, and he was looking for an outlet for his love of sport outside of the AFL, which already demanded so much of his time and energy. Having met our fearless leader Cam last year, he is now officially in the Melbourne Storm corner. You may have seen him at AAMI park already a couple of times this year and fixture allowing, he hopes to make it to many more.

Let us also not ignore the synergies between the two games. Time and time again Melburnian sporting commentators will ask our boys whether they’ve soaked up any AFL pointers, being exposed to the game as often as we are down here. And when Billy scores a try like the one he did in round 1 against the Raiders it’s not hard to see where they are coming from.

On the subject of Billy, it was great to see him mixing it with Eddie McGuire on ‘Eddie McGuire Tonight’, a couple of weeks ago. It was an in-depth discussion about all things AFL and league and in my humble opinion, it should happen more often. Had Mr McGuire shared the black and white view (no pun intended) that one must firmly plant themselves on either side of the AFL/NRL divide, this discussion would never have taken place. And Billy would never have had the opportunity to use his not insignificant charm to work his way into the hearts of AFL followers everywhere.

Please don’t think for a minute that I am unconcerned about the commercial battle between the AFL and the NRL. Like every rugby league supporter I am watching the AFL make inroads into Queensland and Western Sydney with interest and foreboding. As a code we absolutely must keep pace with our rivals but I do think that this is a battle to be fought by administrators, not fans. As fans all we can do is continue to support our wonderful team and let the other war play out in the boardroom.

So where does that leave us? It’s not easy doing the double and it is certainly not an exercise recommended for the faint-hearted. Not so long ago my Dad came along to a Storm night game having played golf if the morning, then having watched his beloved Dees at the G in the afternoon. He went around telling everyone that he was a tri-athlete. Now I don’t know about that, but certainly it is a valiant effort.

And for all you Melburnian AFL supporters out there – you are extremely lucky. It’s so easy to pick your NRL team down here because there’s only one of us. The hard work has been done so get on board. We promise you’ll be happy with your choice.

Of course there are going to be instances when the back pocket or the fixture will not allow you to attend both games and in these cases, of course AAMI Park takes precedence. In fact, you don’t ever have to attend an AFL game if you don’t want. Certainly after being spoilt by the precision and pace of our two 40-minutes halves I find my own attention span challenged by an afternoon of AFL.

Nevertheless, I have a dream. It is a dream of a city where AFL and NRL supporters band together for the betterment of both of our codes. Where tries and goals are scored in front of equally adoring crowds. Where our newsagents stock as many Big Leagues as Records. Where referees and umpires are abhorred with the same amount of collective vitriol. That’s what I would like to see.

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