Friday, 25 September 2009

Footy fever spreads

The page-one pictures I understand  — it is grand final eve in Melbourne after all and they are down to four teams in the northern state’s rugby league comp. But editorials about football in the Melbourne Herald Sun and the Sydney Daily Telegraph? Not that the theme of both will come as a surprise to anyone who has followed either code during the season. The behaviour of the boys has inspired both editorial writers.
In Melbourne the Hun sternly tells Brendan Fevola that “You deserve to be dumped by the Carlton Football Club for years of drunken behaviour that even for you went over the top at the Brownlow Medal night at Crown.” At the Terror they passed by commenting on the story of the manager of a junior league team suspended for five years and one player banned for 15 years over the vicious grand-final brawl in Sydney’s west to concentrate on the way that league has found God. Out at Parramatta Leagues Club, a new chief executive has welcomed the pastors from the Hillsong church in to the fold and the club’s star fullback Jarryd Hayne is following the Christian path. Which has prompted this editorial:
There is no mention of eels in the Bible  — the closest similar term, possibly a little worrying for Parramatta fans, is Beelzebub  — but that should be of little concern to Parra fullback Jarryd Hayne, who along with several teammates is carrying his faith through the NRL finals.
Many in the tough world of rugby league may be inclined to mock Hayne and his fellow faithful but it is worth considering how much possible benefit to the game may result from their beliefs.
For a start, those following a religious calling are usually less inclined to get into the sort of controversies that have diminished league in recent seasons.
This can only be a very good thing. Look at the example set by the Bulldogs’ Hazem El Masri, who might just be the most admired man in rugby league. In large part this is due to, not despite of, his deeply-held religious convictions.
Also, it is also worth appreciating that new audiences may be brought to the game by those who share an enthusiasm for various religious beliefs. The potential size of that audience is large and growing.
Beyond league, this can only help build bridges in wider society. The NRL, through the example of its players, is now able to take a stand against bigotry. Good on them.
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