NRL fans finally get their first taste of the 2018 season this week, with the first batch of trials getting underway. It’s just about time to put away the cricket gear and get back into footy fan mode, and to inspire you we’re taking a look at six of the best fans that have ever graced the game.
Laurie Nichols (Balmain Tigers): No question who gets top billing here. Laurie Nichols was, and always will be, the measuring stick for famous footy fans. For more than 30 years, Laurie was a fixture at Tigers’ games, revving up the Balmain faithful with his sweet boxing moves and rhyming chants for each player.
But he was more than just a novelty act; he was a fan, a cheerleader, a mascot, and a volunteer all rolled into one unique, singlet-wearing package. Sadly, Laurie passed away in 2000. The legend goes that he died of a broken heart after his beloved Tigers were forced into a merger with bitter local rivals Wests.
Parramatta Jesus (Parramatta Eels): Owners of the longest premiership drought in the NRL, the Eels faithful could be forgiven for praying for a bit of divine intervention. However, through most of the 2000s they had the next best thing – an absolute nutcase who rocked up to Eels games in blue and gold robes, and beckon the heavens to deliver tries unto his flock of Eels.
Bearing a striking resemblance to the biblical figure (i.e. he had long hair and a beard), ‘Parramatta Jesus’ filled a big part of the void left in Nichols’ absence. While the Eels didn’t win the comp during his heyday, they did enjoy some of their best years since the 80s, so maybe he was a blessing for the blue and gold after all.
The GST Guy (St. George – Illawarra Dragons): We’ve all seen it. In fact, many of us keep an eye out for it every time we catch a Dragons’ game. I’m talking, of course, about the GST banner, which has been seen at nearly every St. George game over the past two decades. Replacing the words ‘Goods and Services Tax’ with ‘Great St.George Team’ is an ordinary joke at best, but you’ve got to respect the bloke’s commitment to the bit long after the tax became a part of everyday life.
In 2009, the fan revealed himself as a storeman named Mark Molloy, putting to rest a long-held theory that it was famous Dragons fan and GST instigator John Howard in disguise. But Howard isn’t nearly the Dragons tragic Molloy is, having missed only the one away trip to New Zealand in more than 20 years.
The Mad Butcher (New Zealand Warriors): New Zealand, a country where a butcher can become both a celebrity and a knight. We don’t really like honouring Kiwis around these parts, but the Warriors are technically an NRL club and this bloke is the heart and soul of the club.
The Warriors’ biggest fan since the very beginning, Sir Peter Leitch lives and breathes his footy club, promoting the Warriors in his TV, radio and newspaper spots at every opportunity, as well as organising fundraisers, supporter barbecues, and even managing the team from time to time. You shudder to think where the club would be without his rabid support.
Russell Crowe (South Sydney Rabbitohs): The NRL has its fair share of celebrity fans, but they don’t get any bigger than Russell Crowe and his beloved Bunnies. Not content to just sit and cheer from the sidelines, ‘Rusty’ instead bought a major share in the club and used a considerable amount of his personal fortune to bring the club back from the brink of ruin, and turn it into one of the comp’s glamour clubs.
Crowe’s passion for the Rabbitohs is obvious, regularly promoting both the club and the game itself in the US media, and getting some of his famous mates to climb aboard the Bunnies’ bandwagon. But his greatest footy moment is without a doubt his Gladiator-inspired ‘thumbs down’ from the grandstand during an ANZAC Day carve-up of the Roosters.
Buck (Brisbane Broncos): Anyone that peels off a lap of the stadium every time their team scores a try is automatically their top fan, even if it is a horse. The Broncos have fielded some pretty strong teams over the years, giving ‘Buck’ plenty of exercise as he often goes the journey six or seven times in a single game.