There are times when, as a newcomer to Australia, a topic of hot debate is brought up and, while others raise voices, all you can do is raise your eyebrows.
I came across the first example of this last winter when I wore a purple football shirt to a training session with the local veterans’ team. This top, from my hometown non-league football team, Carshalton Athletic, drew heckles from some of my team-mates who suspected it was the maroon (inexplicably, pronounced ‘marown’ here) shirt of Queensland’s State of Origin rugby league side.
If you are reading this with a quizzical expression, I should explain that, once a year, representative sides from Queensland and New South Wales face off in a three-game match series for bragging rights over their neighbour for the next 12 months.
It’s like an international match in that players represent the state they were born in — except there seemed to be a Fijian chap playing last year — and the whole of the eastern half of Australia grinds to a halt to watch and cheer. Of course, if you’re not from here and have no real allegiance — Canberra is neither part of NSW or Queensland, although most locals seem to root for NSW — then the series is likely to leave you cold.
There seems to be a similarly passionate loyalty over the two local car brands, Holden and Ford, particularly their Australian designed and built models (until the factories close next year), the Commodore and the Falcon.
To an outsider, arguing whether Holden or Ford make the better cars seems a little like debating who had the best songs, New Kids On The Block or The Backstreet Boys. In the end it doesn’t matter and you should just go and listen to The Beatles instead. Which is probably what I’ll be doing when the next State of Origin comes around.