The Tri Nations Rugby League tournament kicked off* the other night. Normally international Rugby League is a chance for the best performing players from the season’s NRL competition to put off their post season holiday and earn a healthy representative bonus (and it’s a chance to bump up their asking price at the next round of contract negotiations). This year there’s a little more on the line because somehow the Kiwi’s are the reigning Tri Nations champions. The opening bout had all the ingredients of a successful representative match – an all in brawl encompassing a camera man, a length of the field try, and Willie Mason getting absolutely smashed by a flying shoulder charge from David Kidwell. The spite displayed on the field was apparently (at least so the media beat up claims) brought about by Willie Mason’s posturing during the All Black’s traditional posturing. A significant level of public outrage has developed because Mason so obviously showed contempt for a “significant” cultural display. Now I’m not Willie Mason’s biggest fan. And I won’t defend what he had to say – unless my lip reading abilities have done me a disservice and he was actually talking about a firetruck. But I will defend his right not to treat the Haka as a “significant” cultural display. It would seem to me that calling for a war cry to be humbly respected and observed on a cultural basis would open up a can of worms – must we then stand by and allow the Nazi’s to conduct their purge of all non Arians because that’s a significant part of their culture? A war cry is a declaration of open hostility. The Haka is no more culturally significant than a Nazi salute – and Mark Bosnich can attest to how much trouble that gets you in. At this point I should point out that I’m not condoning anything as offensive as the Bosnich salute. But to present the Haka as a cultural institution to be treated with the same respect as a national anthem seems ludicrous to me. To my knowledge the national anthem of New Zealand was not used to rouse spear wielding Polynesians into battle frenzy. I’m not against the performance of the Haka – I think it’s a completely appropriate form of preparation for an on field battle. I am against the idea that one team should sit idly by while their opponents attempt to psychologically intimidate them. For Big Willie’s benefit I have prepared a list of alternative activities for next Saturday’s haka that are guaranteed to be more off-putting:
1. Run around flapping your arms screaming “I’m a Faerie/Fairy/ferry watch me fly”
2. Prance about with your shorts pulled up as high as possible linking arms with team mates and spinning around.
3. Play hand clapping games (including chants) with the team mate on your left
4. Form a line and do a Riverdance (remember that Irish dance troupe who were all the rage in the mid 90s – complete with Michael Flatley) demonstration
5. Move into position and take a quick kick off catching your opponents unprepared – you should be able to regather and score the first try untouched.
Before any resident Rugby Union fans interject with “all those effeminate activities are entirely appropriate for Rugby League players” – I would suggest the union team not only adopt these policies but provide coaching for any league players struggling to come to terms with being a fairy. If there’s one thing that should unite League and Union fans it’s a common hatred of the Kiwis.
Another story sure to cause a stirring of the old League v Union rivalry is the news that the Gold Coast Titans are looking to snare Jonah Lomu. This would have been really big news ten years ago before Lomu was floored by repeated kidney failure. Now it would be just as significant as Union signing someone of similarly redundant vintage. But it shows a certain willingness of Union superstars to make the jump over to what I would say is arguably (although that implies there’s a level of conjecture – whereas I would argue that there’s no real argument – I just couldn’t think of a better word) a vastly superior game. There’s an old saying about rats deserting a sinking ship. And another one about chef’s desserting a sinking ship (which had to do with the distribution of ice cream on the Titanic as it went down – unfortunately the chef’s creative “Iceberg” dessert also went down like a sinking ship (or a lead balloon) and he was summarily executed)**.
* It’s nice to be able to use a cliché somewhat literally rather than in a figurative sense.
** All information contained in the parenthesis completely untrue.