Rugby league and the arts community in Australia

Story. Character development. Action scenes in slow motion. History. legacy. Drama. Conflict. Solution. No, unlike my colleague Helen Pitt, I’m not talking about the power of cinema, but rather the blockbuster appeal of the biggest sporting event in the world: State of Origin.

If it seems crazy that the NRL’s annual showdown between Queensland and NSW is even compared to the filmmaking phenomenon, it’s because it is. But it’s a debate forced upon us by the ill-planned clash between the first round of Origin and the opening night of the Sydney Film Festival, both taking place tonight.

For those of us who love both sports and the arts, and the Sydney Film Festival in particular, it’s a dilemma. The festival’s opening film is in every way a worthy exploration of Australia’s colonial legacy and a celebration of First Nations history. It’s also a great opportunity to celebrate the power of cinema and a return to the tent poles on our arts and culture calendar.

But how can a film – any film – relate to the magic of Origin? The idea that being forced to choose between game one and the film festival is a choice between sport and art assumes that rugby league is not art itself.

Aren’t Phil Gould’s last words before kick-off every year not art? When he quoted the scene from Game of Thrones where Ned Stark explains to his son Bran what true courage really is, and compared that to rugby league, wasn’t that art?

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When Macklemore Performed His Gay Marriage Hymn the same love at the NRL grand final wasn’t that art?

When Brian “I love meeting great players” To’o encounters great players, isn’t that art?

When musician Roy Bing remixed commentary from NRL’s legendary voice Ray Warren into a catchy dance track that begged us to “look at Tallis,” wasn’t that art?

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