Tardy Porpoise Frolics in Water Park at Bishop (Signs Indicate Hell May Have Frozen Over)

by matchdayburger

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Redcliffe Dolphins v Capalaba Warriors; Nev Blair Shield Grand Final (Under 18 Division 1, Greater Brisbane Junior Rugby League); Albert Bishop Park; 22/9/2013

“…few are without shaved legs, fluoro-coloured boots, sleeves rolled up and taped down tight to emphasise the biceps, and socks bunched around ankles in a messed but precisely-planned way. And don’t get me started on the hair styles. “

Report by G & T (Scott Gittoes & Nicholas Turner)

You can’t but marvel. There’s a seventeen-year-old kid standing deep in the pocket of the in-goal, hands on hips, and he’s pretty much game ready for the NRL, in terms of size. Tall, long-legged, with fierce arms and shoulders, he’s cut in that compressed stone way that’s particular to those who carry a hundred and ten kilos like it’s precisely nothing.

I’ve arrived late to the grand final of the Nev Blair Shield, Brisbane’s premier junior Rugby League competition, but only one team’s on the field.  The Capalaba Warriors are spread-out in formation ready to receive the kick-off and the aforementioned monster of a ‘boy’ has positioned himself right where their opponents are about to enter. There’s nothing coincidental about it. But it’s more than three minutes before the Redcliffe Dolphins actually appear, with all the aloofness of an undefeated outfit.  And they don’t have a spare glance among them for the scarecrow at the gate. There are no handshakes or formalities; the ball is airborne almost before the last of the Dolphins has taken his place behind the halfway line.  The Redcliffe boys seem to have started playing without even acknowledging the game. The Warriors are baffled and their bafflement manifests as fury.  Needless to say, the first hit of this grand final doesn’t disappoint.

These Under 18s hit with all the vigour and spite of the senior grades.  Most approach the contact making short, sharp hissing noises distinctive to Rugby League.  Perhaps the confrontation enlivens some deep-seated warrior instincts, or maybe they’re trained to expel breath on impact for some bio-physical reason, or perhaps they’ve just heard the professionals doing it.  Looking around, it’s the latter that I find most likely. The influence of today’s professionals among these young players’ cannot be dismissed; few are without shaved legs, fluoro-coloured boots, sleeves rolled up and taped down tight to emphasise the biceps, and socks bunched around ankles in a messed but precisely-planned way. And don’t get me started on the hair styles.  This is League as fashion. Sport as social code and trend. These kids are seventeen, after all.

The palm trees on top of the grassy embankments are under stress today; the northerlies are making their presence felt.  Despite some early and late attacks from their opponents, Redcliffe has the wind at their backs and a full sail for the best part of the first half.  Building on plenty of neat work in the middle from a niggling number nine, their backline runs riot down the eastern touchline, picking up at least three tries in that corner.

Turning away from the field at half-time, these grounds (home of the Norths Devils QRL team) remind me of an abandoned water park; large earthen grass-covered mounds rise along the western and southern touchlines; the classic grassy ‘hill’.  These would surely heave during a top-flight fixture but today only a few hundred are in attendance.  It’s almost as if there’s too much space here for a game like this to be atmospheric. The western ridge-line is dotted with those outdated table-chair-umbrella structures, manufactured out of some gauchely unnatural, very eighties material.  The umbrellas are like upturned beach-shells, covered in blackened mould.

The Norths Devils emblem is painted on a faraway wall.  I’ve never seen the devil look more amiable in all my life.  He’s blue for starters and without a single sharp feature, somewhere between Cupid and a Smurf, and he’s holding a decorative yellow trident with a warm, almost consoling grin from ear-to-ear.  If I go to hell, I hope this guy is running the show.  On top of the southern hill is a ‘bar and grill’, though it’s under lock and key this afternoon.  Some food can be found in the brick canteen at the northern end, in the form of a beef patty, or else a dagwood dog, the festive creation that sits somewhere next to the deep-fried Mars Bar and Fruit Loops on the food pyramid.  I give the dog a miss and opt for a humble match day burger.

Far from prospering with a second-half wind advantage, the Warriors are backpedalling from the outset. They stage a long camp-out in the opposing half but cannot manage the majors they badly need. The Dolphins clinically squeeze out hope of any second-half heroics, and the impatience of the crowd is telling.  According to the fast-food sponsor emblazoned across the referee’s shirt, he’s ‘Lovin It’, but I’m not so sure this is still the case when some folks on the sideline start to get cranky about a game that’s all but gone to the rightful winner.

Match Day Burger Score: 5.0

MDB Cost: $5.00

MDB Service Atmosphere: 5.0

Match Score: Redcliffe Dolphins 30 def. Capalaba Warriors 14

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