The smallest matter


The least important matter to come out of the Canberra Raiders loss to the Penrith Panthers was the fact that Panthers fans did the viking clap. Yet for some reason this was a focus for some of the rugby league media in the post game press conference.

“Ricky one of the big moments in the second half a couple of times with the Viking clap” said one reporter.

Sorry, big moment? Not that Canberra went through near the entire second half without making it into opposition territory (though Jake Duke did ask already ask this – he has a good habit of asking football questions). Not that the Panthers swarmed every ball carrier with such relentless ferocity that every run felt helpless. Not that the Milk were impressively resolute; almost sadly so, given their inability to absolve their malaise. Not even that they displayed a lack of creativity and ideas that questions could well be asked of the coaching staff – there could be a good old fashioned “hot seat” situation for the media to froth over if they’d wanted. No, some in the rugby league media wanted quotes about the viking clap.

“Fuck me dead” was Ricky Stuart’s response and he was right.

The key rugby league broadcaster even tried to write this up as Stuart “fuming” at the behaviour of Penrith fans. The other said “Stuart was in no mood” to discuss the matter, obviously implying anger on his behalf at the act. Stuart actually said “I’ve got no thoughts mate” and “is that really a big focus point?” He actually seemed close to laughing. Captain Jack Wighton offered a more simple “no comment” and did laugh. Then they shared a laugh at the idiocy of the question (and then Maggie laughed, she’s such a trooper). Multiple articles still got written.

If Stuart was fuming it was because he had to get through that trash from supposed professionals instead of actual questions about what happened on the field. Turns out he was quite positive about that. Given they lost by 30 that seems worth chatting about. But of course it’s a clicks game now, and there was enough chatter on social media for these media professionals to gussy up a controversy where there was none. For some reason there was less interest in the actual controversy of the near brawl on full-time, and the ongoing animosity between these two teams that seems to stem back to well before this season.

You, and me, have our views on whether the Panthers fans should have done the clap. We’re fans, and we can (and should) say dumb things like “it’s just not football” or “it’s good banter”. Right, wrong, it doesn’t really matter. It’s a meaningless thing for anyone to focus on in the post game analysis. The boys on the Green Machine Podcast have touched on this regularly. There’s no much utility in telling people how to fan. Unless someone is being bigoted or violent it’s best to keep it to yourself.

Fairly, it’s high-handed of me to expect the media to not want to take an emotive moment in the second half and not report on it. People do have to get paid. I mean, here I am writing about them writing about people clapping. In a way I’m just as dumb. But I didn’t waste some of the limited opportunities to talk to coaches and players on asking coaches how to fan. I spent the best part of 2000 words trying to work out just what went wrong. It’s a shame some in the media couldn’t care less.

Ask Stuart if this Panthers team is beatable. Ask about why Josh Papalii only played 11 minutes in the second half (thanks Nick). Ask why Brad Schneider is only allowed to touch the ball surrounded by defenders. Ask why Stuart was so positive about the first 55 minutes. We, the general public actually want to know why this relatively talented team is cratering. We want to know if they can play 80 minutes of decent footy. We want to know if it’s fixable and how.

But instead we’re left with parts of the media frothing about the smallest matter.

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