I used to really love my Rugby League and would rarely miss a home game of my beloved North Sydney Bears. I always enjoyed games on a Saturday or Sunday arvo, particularly if there was a bit of sun. Whether you stood on the concourse or lounged on the grassy hill it was an afternoon well spent. For many reasons, too detailed to go into here, I haven’t been to many league games in the last 10 years – and it took me a long time to walk through the gates of Brookvale Oval – the arch rivals and subsequent assassins of my beloved Bears. Now, nothing will get me to support the Manly Sea Eagles, but watching a game of footy Brookvale Oval on a sun drenched arvo is a welcome throwback to old days. The proximity to the game that a rectangular field offers means you can feel the big hits so much better. Seeing Brett Stewart stand head on in the path of Tom Learoyd Lahrs and survive the Maori side-step makes you realise how tough a game it is.
In the old days, clubs played where they were based – Souths played at Redfern, Easts played at the Showground, Canterbury-Bankstown played at Belmore, Balmain played at Leichhardt and so it went on. The grounds were rectangular and the atmosphere was great. Now the majority of Sydney clubs play at antiseptic venues like ANZ and Allianz where the grounds are half full – and the atmosphere sucks. On Sunday Brookie had 15,000 punters and the buzz was just right – Sunday arvo footy at its best. Now you don’t go to the footy for a decent beer. It’s Tooheys New, XXXX Gold and Hahn Premium Light. The most objectionable thing is that they stop serving full strength at half-time. I mean a half of league is 40 minutes – how much damage can you do? This is consistent with other sports – US Football no beer in the 4th quarter, Baseball no beer after the 7th inning, light at the SCG etc – but for a game that goes to 80 minutes – light beer at half time is a joke.
Now in the interests of beerporn, I smuggled in a stubbie of Southwark Old Stout. This is probably not the beer to drink when it is 23 degrees with a cloudless sky a sun shining directly into you eyes. It is a classic example of an Australian stout. I don’t if any other Southwark variety is still available in SA, but I’m glad Lion Nathan has kept on making this drop. Southwark was just another state beer that was hoovered by Lion Nathan in the ’80s and subsequently downgraded for other national brands. Southwark Old Stout is a dry, robust drop, which comes in at a whopping 7.4%. The boys at Porters Balgowlah always seem to have a couple in stock and it’ll be a regular winter tipple. There’s something very rough, ready and genuine about the almost burnt finish of the Southwark – but one stubbie in the sun, and it could have been lights out.