The Barba Show

We looked up and the clouds were fluffy lavender against the dark purple sky. The moon was already visible, although it was not yet night. We were at the Saturday evening first-grade rugby league match, and excitement was in the air. Too much excitement in one way – we had already moved seats, when we realised we were sitting directly under a huge loud speaker attached high up to the structure of the stadium. The PA system is turned up to eleven at these events, partly to manufacture a sense of occasion for the folks watching at home on TV and partly to pump up the audience in their seats who have paid good money to watch live. And, we found, it is even louder when you sit below one of the sources of the sound.

Never having been a regular attendee at events of this kind I am naturally loathe to drag another person along. But Laetitia suggested we go when I told her the Bulldogs were playing at the Olympic Stadium (ANZ Stadium) in Sydney, and the opposition, the North Queensland Cowboys, would not have many fans there. I still felt responsible though and as a consequence tended to fawn over her somewhat in order to make sure she was comfortable and happy.

There was all the space we needed to spread out a bit, without feeling like other people were on top of us, and we relaxed as kick-off approached. I made a few comments about some of the players as they were flashed up on the big screen, as if there were to be some sort of exam later and we were doing last minute revision together. Couldn’t help myself. But mostly we drank our coffee and ate our Krispy Kreme donuts (the original kind, the one’s covered in sugar which literally melt in your mouth).

The small crowd shared a kind of sly wink or secret handshake form of knowledge: the fact that there were not many of us did not mean that this was not a place worth being.

The Bulldogs player ran out through an inflatable bulldog and there were cheerleaders and two men held leashes with real live bulldogs on the end of them and there was an oversize mascot bulldog having his photo taken with children and eager women and smart-arsed men, and it was all very rugby league.

Before long the home team asserted their authority and we were on the way to a ninth consecutive victory for Des Hasler’s men. The crowd came to life when Ben Barba scored two runaway tries in the first half, arriving on the scene when a break was made, receiving a pass, and then leaving everybody behind as he scooted away. After half time a Cowboys fan – one of the few – shouted encouragement to his team. He said they had conceded two lucky tries. “Shut up, you idiot!” replied a Bulldogs supporter, in a jovial kind of way, and he was right. Barba’s tries were not lucky. They were the product of skill and fine team execution. But it is also true that Barba is a bloody fast runner – that played a part too. At the end of the match Ben Barba crashed over for his third, at our end of the field, so we saw him up close, and we waved our ‘Try’ signs (given out to fans as they entered the stadium), and cheered with all of the rest of the blue and white faithful.

On the train home we saw a family with two daughters settling the kind of dispute which can occur after an accidental incident with a rolled up Try sign. A poke in the eye led to a whingeing protest when dad realised the little one had suffered an injury. She said the older one had poked her in the eye. Mum and dad made the older girl apologise.

“Look at Georgia, and say you’re sorry,” mum said.

“Sorry Georgia,” came the less than sincere apology, Barbaresque in its abruptness.

“She’s not sorry!” said the little one, becoming upset all over again.

We had to stop ourselves from laughing and were forced to pretend we weren’t really watching, but we were, and it was all rather amusing.

And we were home so soon afterwards, eating Oporto and watching the Olympics and baking chocky muffins for a childrens’ morning tea the next day. Sydney public transport had been kind to us. We had had a good time together and that’s all that really matters.

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Published in: on August 8, 2012 at 8:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

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