|Blatchy's Blues fans celebrate with Michael Ennis|
Recently I went to the Ticketek website to investigate the logistics of my mates’ annual pilgrimage to State of Origin games in Sydney. Every year for the last 5 years, around 10 mates and I, have donned the blue wigs, shirts and morph suits, and joined ‘Blatchys Blues’. The first year we went, I was fascinated by how a bloke, who held his 18th birthday at the 2nd state of origin game in 1999 with a group similar to myself, had transformed the origin scenery forever by growing his group year-by-year to establish a mass of coveted blues fans. Last year, 15,000 people stood with him, donning those familiar wigs and shirts.
What I found on the Ticketek website was nothing short of disgraceful.
Blatchys Blues = Gone.
Completely removed from any marketing material appearing on the website and replaced by the very corporate and smug public relations sensitive tagline of ‘NSW supporters section’. As if the NRL is trying to take credit for organising this feature of the crowd, much like they took credit for the NRL Auckland Nines, when in fact it was organised by 2 blokes with a vision. Much like those 2 blokes who had a vision and should have been much more recognised, Dan Blatch’s vision of Blatchy’s Blues has now become null en void.
The disgusting decision by the NRL in which they have thrown tradition and history out the door of the plane they are charting to become the ‘greatest game of all’ leaves them on course for a destination void of all passion, notoriety and stigma. Without history and tradition, you’ve got nothing.
Why the reason to dump the fascinating story behind Blatchys Blues? To make it more appealing for families? To aid those who can’t read a paragraph stipulating what Blatchys Blues actually is?
Seriously, if you want fans ‘engaged’ you need to have things to keep them ‘engaged’, and the story behind Blatchys Blues was just one of those that keep fans and the public talking.
I put it to Dave Smith, CEO of the NRL ,to immediately install ‘Blatchys Blues’ back onto marketing and promotional material to truly recognise the group that has become the largest organised supporters group in Australia. The group that lets the ‘suits’ sit in their corporate box and marvel at the beast that is origin.
We are Blatchy’s Blues. We are the ones the players come to thank at the end of the game. The ones Michael Jennings salutes to after an origin try. The ones who remind Billy Slater he is a ‘banker’ when in Sydney. We play our part in making sure origin is the most watched, most attended and most talked about sporting event in Australia.
You might think I’m being over the top, but, would Cricket Australia let go of the Barmy Army on an Ashes Tour? Where would the Western Sydney Wanderers be if not for the RBB? Supporters groups have long been established around the world, and are a growing trend in Australian sport. They are a transcending part of sporting contests and produce as much hype as the game often does. Liverpool’s KOP, South Sydney’s Burrow, The Fanatics at the Australian Open and the hundreds of other supporters groups around the world, they all have their place.
You see it’s not the fact we’re all sectioned together dressed in blue paraphernalia that makes us different from any other fan at the game, it’s the emotional investment we put in. It’s the recognition and understanding of where the group has come from. What we’ve been trough. The choice you make at the time of purchasing tickets to go the extra mile, do something, anything, which might help us win.
This year, Blatchy’s Blues will be entering its 16th year, a remarkable feat considering our leader Dan Blatch is now well into his thirties. With literally nearly a decade of dominance by Queensland upon us, this year shapes up no different to the last, bigger and more important than ever. The missed chances, the what if’s, the refereeing blunders, the maroon arrogance, the heart break’s and devastated train trips home all drive the motivation to don the blue wig’s once more, in the belief that finally, the drought can be broken.
Finally, we go one-in-a-row.
If you’re still having trouble getting your Blatchy’s belief back, type ‘state of origin pump up’ into the YouTube search bar. You’re welcome.