As a kid growing up in Sydney in the 1970s, there were two things that I was into – rock ‘n’ roll – and footy. As a kid, who wasn’t swept up by KISS’s big Australian Tour of 1980? It was the biggest tour of Australia since the Beatles were here in ’64 right. Before Russell Crowe melded footy and rock, others paved the way. Let’s not forget that Guru Grothe was a Lime Spider. Anyway, the other love was footy. Your definition of ‘footy’ depended on which part of the globe you come from. Back then, if you were from Europe, football was soccer. If you’re from the US, its gridiron, if you’re from Victoria – it’s VFL etc. But if you came from Sydney, the football code was Rugby League. Sure, Nowadays, Queensland win the State Of Origin, and there’s teams from Melbourne to Auckland and back again – every player is covered in tatts and has a physique that says – weights junkie, the entire game is over governed / scrutinised by television and like most everything else in 2011, far too politicised. I was walking out of a cold, concrete football stadium the other day – and I thought back to those simpler days of attending rugby league football games in Sydney. Today’s ‘stadiums’ are sterile, cold places, with the corporate dollar governing what you eat, where you sit, and even what you watch. Today’s players are pretty much carbon copied clutch cargos, all tattooed South Sea islander giants. You even have players wearing girl like pigtails. Spare me please. Lucky for him he’s not running into Noel Kelly or Randall. Do you think there would be room for a small player like the great Little Master Clive Churchill amongst that sea of giants? Maybe not. Times may have changed – but maybe not always for the best………..Yeah sure, Queensland wins everything, but who really cares? Rugby League was a Sydney game, and the players in the country like Brisbane comp always strived to make it to the big time in Sydney. I thought back to the characters of the game. Where are the Laurie Nicholls of the game nowadays? I don’t know. I attended football games at Sydney’s Brookvale Oval for over 20 years. It was part of what Sydney families did in the 70s – you went to the football, you supported the team of your district or area. Players had to work full time – they bashed it out against each other on a Sunday afternoon (with only shoulder pads, and no interchange rules like today’s game) and would be back at work on Monday morning, battered and bruised – all for the loved of their local team’s colours and maybe a match winning payment of a couple hundred dollars – today’s players who are on a million dollars a year ain’t a pinch on players from that past eras. Recovery pool sessions after match day, special diets, sleeping chambers…..can you see Dallas Donnelly in one of those? I remember seeing Manly’s great five eighth Alan Thompson on a Monday morning, driving his truck to work. Or Terry Randall laying concrete mid week. Brookvale Oval was a place of fond memories. No season tickets and corporate hullabaloo like today – you paid your cash and straight through the turnstile. You’d sit on the hill – are there any hills left anymore? Kids would ride on cardboard down the other side of the hill. Big League Week magazine was a few cents, not a few dollars like today. Kids would throw crepe paper streamers in their team’s colours, or cut up newspaper and throw it all in the air to celebrate a try. I suppose the fun police would prevent you from doing that nowadays. There was the ‘peanut man’ as well. One guy who’d walk around selling bags of sugar or roasted peanuts. I bet you can’t do that in 2011 – some health and safety regulation would stop it, or the food vendor contracted to sell exorbitantly priced food would take legal action.
Which reminds me of hot dog sellers. You’d always see hot dog sellers outside suburban grounds – but not anymore. So many great games – the Manly and Wests battles of the late seventies, the epic battles with Parramatta in the early 80s. Maybe I’m nostalgic for the older days cos it was my era – maybe the players were tougher and the game was simpler – whatever the reason – I still have fond memories of twenty + years at Brookvale Oval. You don’t think footy equals rock? The great Tommy Raudonikis released a song with a hard rock band called the Cattle Dogs, the lyrics of which bought a smile to my face. Check it out. Here’s a quick few seconds of Rex and the Commonwealth Bank Pass The Ball comp. Here also is classic Rex Mossop, they don’t make em like this anymore.