Blokes in the red mist
As a general rule I have refrained from writing about international sporting events, basically because any analysis of Australian sporting endeavours would be based merely on television coverage and would be corrupted by the commentary of former players. Im going to break that rule this week because on Saturday I actually travelled to Brisbane to watch the South African Springboks be sacrificed on Queenslands favourite altar of sporting decimation, Suncorp Stadium.
I undertook the holy pilgrimage with three blokes who I shall call Boss, Ross and Duke for anonymitys sake. Dukes 4WD seemed an appropriate chariot for the journey and we soon blended in with the other unnecessarily large cars on the unnecessarily large motorway to Brisbane.
The closer we got to the venue the more yellow things became. It started with people wearing yellow scarves and by the time we actually reached the sacred site there was a swarm of yellow overalled advertising goons. These Bundaberg monks were handing out roll up trumpets and tattoos for the kids. Unbelievable. At least it wasnt cans of bundy and coke I suppose. Once upon a time it would have been cigarette advertising but things have changed. Now there are laws forbidding smoking in the stadium, in the pubs or even four metres from the entrance to a public house. Meanwhile, we were subjected to a thick haze of carbon-monoxide which belched from the cars, buses and trucks that lurched past us up the road, but I digress.
The Springboks have never won a game at Suncorp, the sign on the pub proudly proclaimed, and it wasnt until I was in the massive colosseum-like stadium that I realised why.
The 50,000 capacity stadium is like a vast amplifier which turns the sighs and grunts of individual spectators into a spine straightening roar and focuses that roar directly onto the players. Duke farted and Im sure I saw Os Du Randt stumble.
While I sat there I struggled to hear Boss, Ross and Duke talk (not necessarily a bad thing) and when something actually happened on the pitch a massive surging wall of total surround sound made the very concrete of the stadium quiver.
On this occasion 45,000 staunch Australian supporters and a couple of thousand Springbok followers filled the four tiered pressure cooker. The two sides ran on; one side to a silent welcome the other to a deafening howl. A misty rain was being turned gold by the thousands of lights that encircled the top tier of the colossus. Being a calm and respectful Loon I wasnt going to be dragged into the jingoism of singing the national anthem but as the match wore on the dark magic of Suncorp started to take hold of me and before I knew it I was bellowing Go Bernie go! as Steve Larkham broke the line and turned Percy Montgomery inside out to set up the first try. Thats the all-consuming power of Suncorp it can turn even the most circumspect purveyor of international unity into a screaming banshee. We were blokes in the red mist of national sport and the smell of Bok blood was heavy in the air. We were part of a four-storey concrete tube, ourselves the reverberating cone of this vast speaker that belted out rhythms of nationalism up to a sporting heaven.
From the moment Larkham potted a 45-metre field goal in the opening minutes to the time Mark Chisholm crossed for the final try it was all Australia. The final record breaking scoreline was 49-nil a scoreline that actually flattered the visitors.
In short, they never had a chance. Playing at Suncorp equates to at least a 20-point head start for the home team.
Sadly for the Wallabies thats not going to be enough when they play the All Blacks next weekend. Even with this one-sided and fantastic venue I fear the stadium will be filled with many disappointed and disillusioned fans by the final whistle.