Younger readers might not be aware that this year, 2008, sees the forty fifth anniversary of the release of that wonderful feature film, ‘This Sporting Life’ starring Mr Richard Harris and Miss Rachel Roberts.
The film centred on the rise to fame of a young rugby league footballer, Frank Machin, played by Mr Harris and the tense relationship he had with his landlady, played by Welsh bombshell Miss Roberts.
The film is based on the fine novel of the same name by Mr David Storey.
I recently watched a performance of this film after a good many years and it set me thinking about the relationship the fair sex (pardon the use of that word) have with our wonderful game. In the film, Miss Roberts did not seem to be much of a rugby league fan and she never once appeared on the terraces to watch Mr Harris turn out in the colours of the wonderful Wakefield Trinity club. Of course real life is quite different and many of our women folk can be seen at rugby league grounds each Sunday cheering on their favourites, giving the opposition the benefit of their knowledge and letting the match officials know where they have gone wrong.
Even the amateur games on Saturdays would not be complete without one or two of the gentle sex threatening to “Rip the bloody head off that loose-forward if he goes high once more!” or offering the referee advice on where his whistle might best be kept.
There is no doubt in my mind that our game would be much the worse off without the presence of the ladies.
My own dear wife, Primrose, is very much a rugby league supporter. She has followed the fortunes of Warrington RLFC for well over eighty years. Hours after the birth of our first child, Primrose sneaked out of the maternity wing to watch our home game with Broughton Rangers. It took us several months to get the child back from the clutches of the social services, but as we won the game, it was worth it.
Primrose writes her own column in the esteemed fanzine ‘Gerrout of It!’ which has become quite a favourite among the ladies of the fair city of Warrington. The column contains valuable information on such things as the removal of grass stains from the knees of gentleman’s flannel trousers, the removal of grass stains from the back of ladies dresses, the uses of cooking sherry in the modern kitchen, how to make use of empty cooking sherry bottles, dipsomania and how to hide the effects, how to keep your husband happy in bed (I assume this concerns properly ironed pyjamas, pillows properly filled with down, the correct temperature of the hot water bottle and so on).
Gentlemen can often be seen escorting females to games of rugby league and I was once asked by the lady journalist, Mrs Angela Prowess, my views on taking your wife/lover/girlfriend to a game. I gave the matter due consideration before answering “I’m all in favour of the idea, but I would not bring all three at once. Such an action might cause trouble on the terraces.” Her husband was noticeable by his absence and I remarked to Mrs Prowess that she bore a striking resemblance to star of stage and screen, the late Miss Bette Davis. I honestly never thought I would hear a woman use such language, but we live in the modern age, so I suppose we can expect no better.
Another of the non-male group of journalistic rugby league fans is Miss Claire Balding. Now I know this young lady does her best to present our game in a positive light (something Mike Stephenson and Eddie Hemmings should try some time) but as Primrose pointed out “Yes, it’s all very well being able to explain the offside law to curious southerners, but can she make a good cup of tea, brush her husbands trilby and give a high polish to his best walking brogues?” Fair points I think you will agree.
As I have already implied, we live in the modern times. All around us the wonders of this age can be seen. Our skies are filled with heavier than air flying machines, our seas are filled with colossal container ships plying their trade, our public transport systems are filled with half-witted hoodie wearing simpletons playing their chav ‘rap’ music for the benefit of passengers, the least we can do is welcome the daughters of Britannia onto our terraces. One does not wish be seen as an old ‘stick in the mud’ after all!
Your old friend,
The Thoroughly modern M Cheshire of Warrington.