The NRL may or may not be the greatest sports competition on Earth, but it is definitely home to the greatest fan-made banners. James Dann selects six of the best.
Rugby league has given so much to our culture over the years. Mullets. Russell Crowe. The term “Hopoate”. But what has often been overlooked is its contribution to the arts. NRL grounds have played host to some of the most vibrant and beautiful banners in the sporting – or any other – world. They combine wit and lewdness, word play and lewdness, puns and lewdness, and at their very best, poetry and lewdness. Here is our Spinoff analysis of six of the best banners the NRL’s heroic fans have ever hoisted.
My English teacher in fourth form was pretty cool. He let us watch an episode of The Simpsons in class, and then at the end, turned around and told us we were learning. Intertextuality, he told us. I don’t know whether the authors of this banner were in that class, but they certainly learnt the lesson. This banner’s target audience is the intersection of a Venn diagram that has Game of Thrones fans on one side, and North Queensland Cowboys fans on the other. It’s also a fine example of the spending hundreds of dollars to get your meme printed onto a vinyl banner, rather than just doing what normal people would do, and posting it on Twitter and fishing for retweets.
5. Hunt for a MILF
A classic banner trope is to make puns based on the names of your team’s players. This Broncos fan has not only managed to squeeze the names of two players (Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford) into his banner, but has also done so whilst implying that he would quite like to have a sex with a lady.
Points added for concise content. Points deducted for almost certainly being morons.
4. Manly hates you too
The seaside suburb of Manly has produced two of Australia’s most high profile hate targets – Tony Abbott and the Sea Eagles. Whether it’s their beautiful beaches, or their classic maroon strips from the late 80’s and early 90’s, they just rub people the wrong way. The thing is, the Manly fans know this too. This banner – flown at the 2011 Grand Final against the Warriors (those were better days, sob) is more than a knowing wink. It’s a middle finger, held up proud, to all those teams and fans who love to hate Manly.
3. Great St George Team
Success has come in fits and starts for the St George Illawarra Dragons over the last few decades, but they’ve always had one of the most loyal fan bases in the comp. Wherever they play, there is a sea of banners, floating on the wind like the washing lines at a hall of residence the Monday after O Week. While some of them might be wittier or punnier or ruder, this is my favourite. Mark Molloy has been taking his GST banner to games since 1997 – which is a pretty good effort for a man who doesn’t even live in the team’s catchment, and for a banner that doesn’t really make much sense.
2. Great Tongue
Like Number 5, this banner succeeds by punning on two player’s names – Willie Mason and Alan Tongue. But “Great Tongue”, as it has become known in the seedy underground of banner aficionados, takes things to the next level. Firstly, it’s got a dick joke. Secondly, and perhaps surprisingly progressively, it promotes cunnilingus. Thirdly, unlike the MILF banner, it’s a dig from one set of fans to the other team’s. It has been imitated, but never bettered. The Australian National Museum should be buying this work of art up for generations of Aussie battlers to marvel over in years to come.
1. Lets Gone Warriors
It doesn’t have a pun. It isn’t rude. It doesn’t make any sense. But with just three words, and a catalogue of syntax errors, Tyson Ellis’s “Lets Gone Warriors” sign perfectly summed up the club. The hope, the simplicity, the imperfections, the brilliant spontaneity. It immediately became the unofficial hashtag, then pretty quickly became the official one too. It had the sort of impact that social media managers dream about, but can never pull off.