Wednesday night sees the third and decisive confrontation between New South Wales and Queensland in the 2013 State Of Origin Rugby League clash. If you're one of the 20 million odd Australians who didn't tune in for earlier matches, here's what you need to know to survive conversations with your sports-obsessed friends and family.
Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Given the saturation media coverage Origin receives, especially in NSW and Queensland, it's worth remembering that the experience of watching it is far from universal. Consolidated ratings for the second clash which took place a fortnight ago show that 2.25 million people tuned in (that includes time shift viewing).
That's a massive number by Australian TV standards, but less than 10 per cent of the whole population. I don't think that's purely because the match isn't broadcast in HD -- sport simply isn't something everyone wants to watch. That's worth remembering if you feel surrounded by people whose only topic of conversation involves phrases like "CAARN THE BLUES" and you can't even remember which state adopts which colour. When that does happen, we have some suggestions.
These are the absolute basics: each year, NSW and Queensland field a team of their best rugby league players, drawn from across the teams that participate in the National Rugby League (NRL) tournament, and compete in a best-of-three series. NSW is the Blues; Queensland is the Maroons. In recent years, Queensland has dominated the series since 2006, but in 2013, which is Origin 33, each team has won a single match, so this game is an important decider. I could tell you more, but frankly my eyes are already glazing over. Sportball is not my thing.
And on that point, our standard advice for bluffing through sports events actually doesn't involve bluffing as such: there's no point in pretending you have an expertise you don't have. A true fan will quickly realise that you don't know much, and then you'll appear insincere as well as ignorant.
A better strategy, presuming you're attempting to maintain a pleasant conversation, is to draw on the enthusiasm of others and get them to educate you. So use questions like:
- "Why is Origin more exciting than regular matches?"
- "Are there any consequences to punching another player's lights out?"
- "Have you ever been to a match in person?"
- "What happens if it's a draw at full time?"
Other useful strategies: if you're asked by a casual acquaintance why you don't follow the game, say your family is from South Australia so no-one cares. If you're asked who you're backing, pick the state you live in if that's NSW or Queensland; pick Queensland if you're Victorian, because hating NSW is still a state sport; and toss a coin for anything else.
These tactics won't always work. You'll inevitably run into the person who tells you it's "un-Australian" not to like sport in general, or Origin in particular. Rational argument isn't going to get you anywhere here, so I'd just walk away on those occasions.
Have your own Origin-day survival tips? Tell us in the comments.