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The Sydney Morning Herald


Author: John MacDonald
Date: 25/09/1992
Words: 960
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 75
It's an outrage, but less than 36 hours from the grand final the most important question surrounding the game still hasn't been raised.

What became of the parachutist who missed his mark and crashed on the Sydney Football Stadium roof last year?

Is he still there?Did they scrape him off? Is he still alive, or has he gone back to that great stadium in the sky?

These and other pertinent rugby league matters should be discussed because we're approaching that dreaded extravaganza:the combined NSW Rugby League promotions/television pyrotechnic display of tastelessness.

The portents are there that this year's will be something memorably good or bad, depending on your view.

Those who have attended the semi-final series-or any premiership match this year-will know the familiar strains of the pre-game national anthem.

Yes, the one with the opening bars so reminiscent of the Superman theme(that's the George Reeves Superman-the original and the best), preceding whichever vocalist wants to show they're true blue.

Rumour has it they wanted Madonna this year, but she wanted simply the best a material world could offer a material girl, but then she's not fair dinkum.

The anthem ritual has its point. The NSW Rugby League is waging a long-term battle with the Australian Football League to establish a truly national game,with the attendant television and sponsorship benefits.

So the NSWRL wraps itself in this heart-warming nationalism surrounding the anthem.

Semi-final patrons would have heard a more disturbing development,however.

After every game the eardrums have been caressed by the holy trilogy.

First there has been Queen Tina Turner and Sir Jimmy Barnes's heart-stirring rendering of the alternate anthem,Simply the Best.

Then has followed John Williamson's very own Hey, True Blue.

Yes, that's the same John Williamson who does the emetic promos for John Laws and then expects his brand of dinki-di, flag-waving philosophy to be taken seriously.

Yes, the same Williamson who rendered his very own Rip, Rip, Woodchip in front of a giant tree made from rubber in 1989.

That grand final, with its environmental theme including caged tigers and a silent cast from 42nd Street, remains the greatest promotional game of all.

We may never see its like again.

Finally,we have had the late Peter Allen's lachrymose I Still Call Australia Home.

Can't Craig "I still call Australia, England,Scotland, the Faroe Islands Home" Johnson sing something? That would be a sign the NSWRL is making progress cross-sports and cross-cultural.

Yes, '89 was fine but '90 was good, too.

You didn't have to be a homophobe to see how incongruous the exhumed Village People behind oiled-up,posing musclemen were on the day.

If you weren't a homophobe you could enjoy the unintentioned commentary the"You're not allowed to joke about the game" serious men of Phillip Street couldn't see.

Now they're at it again-it's been days in the preparation,practised with military efficiency by the military.

Who knows what atrocities await tomorrow?

Yothu Yindi won't add to the atrocities. They're very worthy and talented, no doubt. They're also Aboriginal with an impassioned message, and it would be racist and unforgivably cynical to suggest their very ideological soundness contributes to this nationalistic wrapping.

As a necessary interlude there will again be football.

The President's Cup players will again have to alter their entire preparation and change a season's habits to kick off at 10.45 am.

Ditto the reserve-graders at 12.25 pm.

One hopes the first-grade grand final-the day's nominal highlight -kicks off at 3 pm and not 1990's 3.20 pm to accommodate the televised atrocity.

Have the players, whose day it is, been asked their opinion of the extravaganza's schedule?

Of course,football can generate real emotion and patriotism.

No cynicism was warranted when thousands burst into Waltzing Matilda -their national anthem-in response to British fans singing during this season's Ashes-deciding third Test.

No third-rate Las Vegas imitations or 22 tricks on an environmentally and ideologically sound banana are needed at, say, an FA Cup final. The crowd provides its own unmanufactured entertainment and emotion.

For the folks at home there's plenty to do when the football is not on the screen.

Those few thousand fans lucky enough to have tickets to the game haven't that choice.

One hopes all the kids taking part in the extravaganza have a great day, the thrill of their young lives and one to tell their grandkids about. It would be better to let the kids frolic around and forget the rest.

Oh, for the days when there was just football, a brass band and Bob Abbott to lower his program as a signal for the parachutists.

And the NSWRL is worried about video replays because it might upset the game's continuity.

Will rugby league be the winner on the day? Fortunately,the product is good enough to withstand most of the blows from within.

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