BY CURTIS WOODWARD
Locals call it the “8th wonder of the world” – Leichhardt Oval. Or is it Lilyfield Rectangle? Either way, my mate and I are on the bus from Central headed out for Sunday afternoon footy.
He’s a keen Wests Tigers supporter too…both draped in 2019 versions of the club jersey ($ure to be replaced for a new de$ign in 2020).
There is an energy in the air as there always is when a big game looms.
Wests Tigers versus Cronulla for a spot in the finals on the line.
Sir Robert Farah’s swansong.
As we wind through the streets of Forest Lodge and Annandale, my mate scrolls over a Facebook post from Fox Sports.
Farah was out!
Word gets around the bus. An old bloke with a walking stick gets confirmation from a stranger three seats back.
The spirits are still high and intact.
We file out of the bus and join the masses up Balmain Road.
Leichhardt Oval teases somewhere off in the distance. Before then, an ale or seven at the Orange Grove Hotel. Thankfully, there was plenty of VB and Carlton Draught for us simple folk to go with the craft beers for the hipsters as they weaved bacon wax into their impressive and not so impressive moustaches.
The security guard gives us a hearty “good luck fellas” as we continue on.
We arrive at the Glover Street entrance and are amazed and shocked at the lines to get into the ground.
In fact, you couldn’t even call it a line – more a perfectly formed cluster f*** moving as one organism.
The aroma of cooking meat hits our noses…the line for the bar is ungodly. We learn pretty quickly that you take the good with the very, very, bad at Leichhardt Oval.
After much ducking, dodging and apoligising, we make it down passed the Keith Barnes Stand and the other side of the field. It appears there’s slightly less chaos. The sun is no enemy down here either. The men’s bathroom is dilapidated and shockingly spacious. You can almost picture Tim Brasher breakdancing to a crunchy Vanilla Ice lick in the middle of the floor after one too many back in the early 1990’s.
We find a bar in the north western corner but there’s trouble afoot. There appears to be far too many lines. Confusion leads to the realisation that we’re probably going to miss the start of the game. Our beer line snakes out onto the northern hill but it also crosses another line where people are waiting to buy food. After about fifteen minutes, we’re close, but we then notice people have been cutting in from the other side, back through the food line and ordering OUR beers. How dare they?
Security comes to inspect the situation but eventually gives up. Smart guy.
One could argue that a sport just as exciting as rugby league is watching people at Leichhardt Oval trying to work out what line is for what. That moment on their faces, from bemusement to terror, is worth the price of admission.
Ever wondered why the booing sounds louder at Leichhardt?
Many times yesterday we found ourselves booing because everyone else was.
Half the time we couldn’t even see what was going on.
‘We’re booing? BOOOOOOOOOO!’
Boo Aaron Woods!
Paul Gallen? ‘BOOOOOOOO!’
‘Get stuffed Fifita!’
The cigarette smokers gather near the gates next to the Keith Barnes Stand at half-time. Balmain legend Garry Jack works his way through the crowd. Its bedlam. Kids everywhere. Suburban rugby league at its finest.
Then Robbie Farah runs onto the field.
Half the crowd have no idea what’s going on.
The Sharks extend their lead and score some more.
But it isn’t until we reach the light rail down the road we hear that Sharks arch villain Paul Gallen has kicked a field goal.
One last insult.
I turned to my mate on the trip home and asked him if he’d enjoyed his first trip to Leichhardt.
“It’s madness mate,” he pondered.
“It’s total chaos. But I’ll be back for sure.”
Follow our social media pages this evening as we announce the winners of the 2019 #ArthurBeetsonMedal