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Byron Shire
February 1, 2023

The perks of being a sports hack

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John Campbell

Of a winter weekend, I’m usually working as the sideline eye at Red Devil Park or Les Donnelly Field, reporting on the local teams’ progress in the NRRRL. Road-trips to venues such as Kyogle and Casino I take with the wonder of Columbus in the New World.

When a couple of comps came my way for the Gold Coast Titans v Rabbitohs NRL game at Skilled Park I was over the moon.

Entry into the Chairman’s Club buffet was included, so I got onto my mate the Big Fella (another Bunnies tragic) and we fanged it up the Pacific Highway with you-beaut enthusiasm, talking League all the way.

We ignored the stoned steward in a flouro jacket who wanted us to park at Mudgeeraba and catch the bus back (‘is he kidding?’), and left the car within walking distance of the stadium (‘the smell of liniment, the roar of the crowd’). After joining the fans’ pilgrimage to the floodlights, we found our seats and checked out the smorgasbord. Not exactly Maxim’s, but better than a cup of chips with t’marta sauce.

Big Fella and I were both worried, not so much about using the proper utensils to hoe into the gratis canapes (‘what are canapes, anyway, mate?’), as we were about how the Bunnies might go without Greg Inglis. Following a lacklustre 22–18 loss to the hopeless Dragons, every running-dog with a by-line in the media was spruiking that minus GI Souths were mere pretenders to the crown. There was also a nagging, unspoken anxiety that Dave Taylor, having spectacularly not set the world alight since leaving Redfern, would brain it against his former teammates.

As it turned out, Nathan Merritt was as safe as a bank in the number one jersey while the Coal Train contributed a few cameos that were notable only for their oafishness.

The Bunnies gained the ascendency early. Centre Bryson Goodwin (‘Remember Lord Ted, mate?’ ‘Shit, yeah’) charged full-tilt into his opposite. Thump! Hear the collision. See the Titan knocked off his feet. Big Fella grunts in appreciation – there’s no point in discussing John Donne if you are not into the metaphysical poets, just as there is no point in going to the footy with somebody who doesn’t ‘get it’.

Better was to come. Gorgeous George Burgess (or was it Tom? The twins are like the two dudes in The Social Network), barrels into the thick of it. He’s the irresistible force, but would-be tacklers are unable to meet him with the immoveable object. He smashes one… two… three… virtually the entire Titans pack, leaving them sprawled on their sorry arses. Power and passion. It’s awesome. We’re out of our seats – you can’t help but not be at such a sight.

At the completion of the set, Georgie’s there to collect the final pass and dive over to give Souths a comfortable 14–0 halftime buffer.

We couldn’t wait to return to the chairman’s banquet and get stuck into the Camembert, Gorgonzola and Fourex. You wouldn’t be dead for a quid, would you?

The final score of 32–4 was a fair reflection of the contest.

Souths were a class above and Matty King had successfully re-introduced the Afro into the world of NRL shaved-heads.

All we had to do was find our way home from Robina.

‘Where do you reckon we go at this roundabout, mate?’

‘Don’t ask me, Big Fella. I’m just a Goonengerry hillbilly.’


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