Two different games of football at the weekend changed the face of
Australian sport. Today both codes wear a broader, more attractive look.
Brisbane trounced St George 28-8 at the Sydney Football Stadium yesterday,
taking the premiership to Queensland for the first time. Brisbane's victory
followed Saturday's Australian Football League success by the West Coast against
Geelong, when the AFL flag left Victoria for the first time.
Victorians might mourn the loss of their flag but the evidence in Sydney
yesterday suggested that the people of NSW were ready to hail the Brisbane team.
No war was lost, not many tears were shed.
This was a game for the aficionado, rather than the partisan; for the
theatre-goer, rather than the camp follower.
Brisbane had been the best and most imaginative team for most of the
season. Yesterday the gods acted justly. The best team won.
Modern football is a game that requires a constant contriving of
animosity, on and off the field. League followers had been told that yesterday
would bring interstate rivalry to a head and that St George carried the hopes of
four or five million NSW people on their shoulders.
The crowd at the SFS, and as far as can be gathered most of those watching
in clubs and homes, did not behave like that at all.
Sure, there were a few boos for the Broncos as they ran on to the field,
but nobody boos nobodies. This crowd knew some champion footballers had come
from Brisbane yesterday, perhaps even a champion team.
And when the loud-speakered cheerleader begged the crowd to engage in some
primal scream therapy - when did it become necessary for sporting fans to be
asked to cheer? - the cheers for Brisbane were louder than those for St George.
Being a sports fan is a complex matter, not always rational. Yesterday
there seemed more on show to bond the fans together than to put them asunder.
Outside the ground, you could have your face painted in your club's
colours for $2 or you could have your face painted in multicolours for $3.
Inside, when some distinguished players who retired this year were
introduced to the crowd and improbably asked to climb a giant artificial
football in the middle of the ground, the biggest cheer was for Wally Lewis, the
well-known Queenslander commonly known as King Wally.
The stadium entertainment, other than the football, took on the
increasingly fashionable nationalistic look, a look that takes minds from petty
Debbie Byrne sang I Still Call Australia Home in a highly original duet
with the late Peter Allen, courtesy of video and the big screen. Yothu Yindi
were famously and most recognisably Australian. And Jodie Gillies sang a
frenzied national anthem, which lacked the class of Joan Carden's at the MCG
grand final on Saturday.
Even the arrival of the Broncos on the field, led by someone dressed as a
huge beer can followed by someone else as a banana, was greeted good-naturedly.
Ten minutes into the game, Brisbane captain Allan Langer lifted the hearts
of the aficionados and tore those of the St George partisans, stepping off his
left foot and accepting Gavin Allen's return pass for the first try.
Ricky Walford scored in the corner to have St George behind only 4-6 at
half-time but Langer did it again after 10 minutes of the second half, 12-4.
Then the little man darted before Alan Cann sidestepped and pushed off
With 20 minutes to play, a large part of the 41,560 crowd began the chant
that announced the match was as good as won: "Broncos | Broncos |"
Willie Carne ran the ball from behind his line, Langer passed it wide to
Steve Renouf, who ran 90 metres for one of the memorable grand final tries. Cann
scored again with another sidestep before Scott Gourley earned a consolation
try for St George.
Langer won the Churchill Medal for the player of the grand final and a
spectator's sign read, "Hail Our New King Alfie".
St George captain Michael Beattie said rugby league was the winner and,
for once, the cliche made sense.
Ken Arthurson, chairman of the Australian Rugby League, said the 1992
grand final was historic on two counts - Brisbane had made it for the first time
and it was league's 85th anniversary.
League followers will now look forward to the historic 86th season,
wondering which teams will try to play the Brisbane way.
PAGE 2: The Cup heads for Brisbane. PAGE 25: Four-page grand final