Notes On A Dynasty… Viewed From Afar And After The Fact… Where To Next For The Perpetual Losers?
Something is rotten, south of the border. It’s not a lack of talent, of skill, of dedication. It’s nothing to do with brute force, or lack of. It’s nothing to do with power and precision, at least not as much as you’d think… it’s more that these southerners, shrouded in sky blue with the hopes and dreams of Australia’s fifth largest state weighing mightily on their shoulders, seem to have forgotten how to win.
Come full time, first-time Captain Robbie Farah stood in disbelief, hands on hips, eyes cast down. Surrounded by teammates doing the same. Disbelief that they’d come close, that they’d let it slip again, that for eight years now, their northern neighbours had basically erected a wall around this most prestigious and lauded patch, this game, this series, this way of life.
While Queensland celebrated jubilantly, their dynasty intact and, in fact, seemingly never stronger despite the aging of many of its stars, New South Wales stumbled back to a place they now habitually frequent, that of second place, of the Perpetual Loser. And this place, of course, isn’t real, but one of the team’s own making, a mental place where they loathe to tread, no doubt, but a place that they just know – there is, it seems, no other place they can go, and this is troubling to be sure.
Queensland, by comparison, know how to win. It was most evident in Game Two this year, where a loss would have ended the aforementioned dynasty, but backed by their rabid home crowd, they schooled the Blues, they basically broke down everything NSW thought they knew about football, and re-taught it to them in a display worthy of legend. This is a team who knows how to win, it’s as simple as that, and not just because they’ve achieved it more often in the past eight years, but because they believe they can, they know how to channel their passion (they know there’s a difference between dedication and passion), and they know how to get it done, even when their collective back is against the wall.
And so they won again this time, Game Three making it eight series’ in a row for a team many are calling the greatest team, of any sport, anywhere in the world. And they’re not far wrong.
Meanwhile, where there’s a winner, there’s a loser and that mantel has, of course, been worn, stoically for the most part, by the Blues. And so, they don’t know how to shake it. They get close most years, win a game, play a decider, but they just can’t seal the deal.
And so what can they do to remedy the situation? Something as mundane as changing a coach, switching players to different positions, changing game tactics will not work, it’s been proven not to work. Even recruiting the fastest, strongest, most skillful players in the league (as, of course, they try to do every year) won’t work – you can have the thirteen best rugby league players in the world on a single team, but if they can’t mesh together effectively, then they may as well be the thirteen worst.
No, what New South Wales need, in order to help them make the mental shift from that of Perpetual Loser to Winner, in order to make them realise that there is a place they can go other than the metaphorical second place cave they seem to have created for themselves, what they need to remind them how to win again, is passion. The same passion exuded by the Queensland team, their supporters… they need to bleed, cry, shit and piss blue. They need to be able, as a team, to unite, a rock solid unit, through which nothing can flow because they BELIEVE so heavily that they can WIN.
It’s what QLD have been doing for eight years, and it works. It’s simple and it’s effective. But you can’t fake it. And it won’t work straight away. It’s the changing of a culture within a team, and this is something that takes time and effort, pain and little gain until glory is unleashed and this current dynasty is felled. It is, again, as simple as that.
Until then however, Queensland reign supreme, a golden age in rugby league, without a shadow of a doubt.
Samuel J. Fell
(SJF is an ardent Queensland supporter)