HEART­LAND

Inside Sport - - Know More - HOW RUGBY LEAGUE EX­PLAINS QUEENS­LAND BY JOE GORMAN, UNIVER­SITY OF QUEENS­LAND PRESS, ¥ .

Know how a na­tion plays its foot­ball, and you know that na­tion. Or even parts of one – Queens­lan­ders are Aus­tralians, af­ter all, even if they claim a cer­tain ex­cep­tion­al­ism. And that dif­fer­ence is never so man­i­fest when it comes to rugby league, ac­ti­vated by the pas­sion of State of Ori­gin.

As Heart­land lays out, for all the the­o­ris­ing about why the Sun­shine State stands apart, there’s been lit­tle in­tel­lec­tual in­ter­est in league’s role in forg­ing this iden­tity (part of a larger high­cul­ture bias against the sport as a whole). This book is in­tended as a cor­rec­tive, in the hands of au­thor Joe Gorman, who per­formed a sim­i­lar task in ex­plor­ing the cul­tural mi­lieu of an­other footy code in The Life And Death Of Aus­tralian Soc­cer.

This is a nar­ra­tive full of char­ac­ters: Beet­son, Lewis, Meninga, Langer et al, whose force of per­son­al­ity couldn’t help but leave an im­print on the sport. But Heart­land’s most ef­fec­tive el­e­ment is a dis­tinct sense of place – in the way it es­tab­lishes ru­ral and re­gional Queens­land, the only state in the Com­mon­wealth with a greater share of its pop­u­la­tion out­side the cap­i­tal than in, as the well­spring of its amaz­ing tal­ent, and shaper of its league cul­ture.

This also con­trib­utes to an­other par­tic­u­lar qual­ity of the game up north – its en­dur­ing bond to the In­dige­nous com­mu­nity, and its in­ter­play with racism more gen­er­ally. Even as Queens­land grap­pled with his­tor­i­cal prej­u­dice, its Ori­gin team be­came a bea­con for black peo­ple, a group that Greg Inglis would choose to play for. As Dr Chris Sarra put it: “Even with all the racism and bull­shit around you – that’s the place where we could be the best.”

GOOD FOR: Maroon diehards, and those of us who seek to un­der­stand them.

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