As a family of three we've become passionate Canberra Raiders fans. It's an interesting one as up until 2014 (when I was generously given a family membership as part of my Human Brochure membership), I'd never really paid much attention to Rugby League.
In the UK, League is very much a 'northern' thing. A flat cap and pint versus the allure of rugby union's spiffing top hat and gin and tonic. I don't think I'd watched a single game of rugby league growing up - apart from perhaps the odd foray into Eddie Waring's 'up and under' on tele on a Sunday afternoon.
In truth football and cricket dominated my youth. Rugby union did pop-up occasionally with the six nations. Bill Beaumont et al then Jonny Wilkinson's world cup winning drop goal with 20 seconds to go in 2003. I knew nothing of rugby league though.
Our free ticket (and subsequent paid renewals) has brought us into a world of Rugby League. A frantic running and pushing game, sometimes brawl over brains, but nevertheless an exciting game with (fairly) straightforward rules, that unlike Canberra's rugby union team (Brumbies) attracts more of a crowd and a noisy one at that.
The scheduling of Raiders games is odd - sometimes there may be two in a week, at other times there's a month or more between home games. Nevertheless the games are often exciting and both Audrey and Eli love the noise of the crowd and celebrate victories as much as they bemoan the defeats. A loss can cast a shadow over our household for an entire week.
Ricky Stuart, the Raider's coach has built a young squad with plenty of guile. What's more they seem to be really nice guys. Rugby league in Australia is beset with a bad reputation - players with drug habits, tattoos, philandering relationships and misdemeanours both on and off the pitch. Of course I'm looking at things through green tinted spectacles, but by comparison Raiders seem to play fair and are good role models. We've been along to a couple of 'meet the player' sessions recently and I've been so impressed by how down to earth the players have been and how giving of their time they are to my kids.
In the absence of a football (soccer) team in Canberra, Canberra Raiders certainly fills a hole. The kids mock their fellow pupils who claim to be fans but have never actually been to a game, whereas they've sat shivering on Friday nights watching second half collapses or celebrated late tries that claimed victories when all hope was lost. I hope like me the kids #bleedgreen for the rest of their days.
|Jordan Rapana - a kiwi who is an incredibly fast and skilful player|
|Eli's two heroes - Jack Wighton and club captain Jarrod Croker|