Wednesday, 27 June 2012

for the love of the game

The Game, of course, is Rugby League. 

The Greatest of them all.

Manly, Queensland and the Kiwis.

2008, the greatest year of this league fan's life.

I've been a Manly supporter since I was kid.
I've been there through the highs - having one of the best teams of the early to mid 90s, premierships, Menzies; and the lows - the Northern Eagles, need I say more?
When the Warriors came along I wasn't filled with excitement at the prospect of having a "local" team. No one could take the place of my beloved Manly.
Matthew Ridge's defection made the Warriors #1 on the list of teams I hate.
In 4th form I did an assignment for English on "Why the Warriors should be kicked out of the NRL" (It was some of my best work, my only regret is that I don't have a copy of that paper to reflect on today).
The "eve" of breve711 is for Steve Menzies. The  "11" also represents Menzies, my all time favourite league player.
I've stayed loyal to Manly all these years, and even now, when WF's confront me with the "local" team argument, I stay true to the Maroon and White.

And yet, despite all of this, for three days of the year, every year, I'm not a Manly fan.
I'm a Queenslander.
It hurts me a little bit to cheer against my Manly boys, but that is what Origin does to you. It takes your club loyalty and blows it to pieces (it does if you're like me and your club breeds the enemy).
In my case, I despise the Stewart brothers, cross my fingers Watmough won't overcome his latest injury, hope Buhrer has the worst Origin debut since the disaster that was Hodges' in 2002, and hope my favourite Tongan (till the end of 2012, then he's dead to me) doesn't last 5mins from his lack of match fitness.
That's the wonder of State of Origin.

I get asked by my non-league loving friends (and some of the league lovers too) why do you care so much about State of Origin? Isn't that for Aussies?
It's a complicated answer, but to cut a long and rambly story short, I just do.  There is no rhyme or reason, it just is.  How can you be a Rugby League fan and not love Origin?

After watching Game 2 last week, I made the spur of the moment decision that I was making it to Game 3 no matter what.  I am not a spur of the moment type of person.  I like to plan.  In advance.  Months in advance.  Despite the game being sold out for months (Queenslanders sell out an origin game like football fans sell out the Super Bowl) I tried to get a ticket.  I googled and googled and googled some more.  Nothing. Nada.  Zip.  There were no tickets to be had anywhere. No package deals available either. Depression ensued.
Then came my desperate plea to my facebook friends.  One day and a trillion suggestions later, I had signed up to E-bay Australia - did I mention I was desperate? Still no tickets. Where were all the ticket scalpers in my time of need?

Then came a teeny, tiny miracle.

My sister hooks me up with Tabitha from Harvey World Travel Mount Isa.  MT ISA.  A tiny mining town in Hicksville, Australia has tickets? They do! I do the dance of joy - metaphorically speaking, I'm still at work after all.

Of course that joy quickly turned to despair when I remembered my passport had expired.  I wasn't going anywhere without it. So, a quick trip to the mall after work to get some quickie passport photos done, and two of the ugliest passport photos in the history of the world later, I was halfway done renewing my passport.
As my luck would have it, the Department of Internal Affairs wasn't open in the weekend. I would have to wait till Monday to complete the process.
Monday morning, I arrive bright and early. Application checked, passport photos checked, $306.60 ready and waiting to be paid, and what do I discover? My flatmate can't be my witness because we live together.  Despair. A desperate look through my phone contacts - that I hadn't updated since I lost my phone over a year ago - and I discover everyone I have in there is either at work, without access to their passports, aren't NZ citizens, or are related to me.  I'm not ashamed to admit it, tears were beginning to pool. As the tears threatened to spill over, I discover a friend who is not only a NZ citizen, but who will be at home because she is on maternity leave. Triumph. She is going to Australia herself in two weeks, so has a valid NZ passport. I can sense victory is nigh. And she is at home so she can get me her passport details. Celebrations and promises of all the brownies she can eat ensue. My passport renewal is complete and the nervous three day wait for my urgent passport renewal begins.

I get to work later that day.  I nervously hand in my application for leave. I'm only asking for three days, and it's more than two weeks in advance. Still, I'm nervous with so much on the line.
For a little background, I am in the process of transitioning into my new job and out of my old one.  My first official day in my new role is Monday July the 2nd.  I requested leave for the 4th to 6th of July - Wednesday to Friday. It is not great timing. It is, in fact, horrible timing.
The 6th of July is the day before my birthday. The 6th of July is the first day of my new colleague's leave. That she applied for weeks ago. Before Me. The 6th of July is also the day we are being audited. 

You know that look on someone's face when they're about to tell you no? That was look on my boss' face.  This is what led me to volunteer to talk to my travel agent and see if I can get a flight back to NZ on Thursday, and be back in time for work on Friday.  I even go so far as to play the sympathy card, and casually mention that July 7th is actually my birthday (I know, pathetic, but it's Origin). Being the awesome employee that I am, in my first week on the job, I am not only trying to go on  holiday, but I'm sacrificing one day of that holiday to cover for someone else, on my birthday week.

Leave approved. The finish line is in sight.
The only thing left on the checklist is finding a place to stay that isn't already sold out. What did we do before Google? Google is my new BFF...well, maybe my second BFF (if google could accompany me to Armageddon, you'd have some serious competition Newz ).
There are so many to choose from. Do I go for cheapest? Or closest distance to Suncorp? I'm in Australia for less than two days, I don't have time to waste commuting. So I go for the hotel that is close to Suncorp, the malls, everything.

What would normally take months of planning (and if I'm honest, it wouldn't be me doing the planning) I've managed to do in less than five days.

I leave for Australia on Wednesday morning.
I come back to NZ on Thursday night.
I am officially going on holiday for 32 hours.

$300 to renew my passport.
$1600 for ticket to game + flights
$600 for hotel.

Being there for Petero's Origin farewell, and witnessing history in the making?

Happy 30th to me.

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