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Does Canberra have a siege mentality?

By Tim Gavel 23 July 2018 15

Canberra is much more than just the seat of government but misinformed outsiders are still making life tough for the people who live here and the sporting teams they support. Photo: Jack Mohr.

“Is it true you don’t have to pay tax in Canberra? I’ve heard that the government mows your lawns.”

These are just some of the nonsense questions I have been asked by people with little knowledge of Canberra. They are fuelled by years of mistruths and ignorance.

Another perception from some is that Canberra, as a community, is responsible for government decision making. It must be right; it’s on the television news. How often have you heard: “Canberra is looking to raise the tax on fuel” or “Canberra has opted against providing grants to drought-stricken farmers”? Apparently, it’s easier to say ‘Canberra did this’ and ‘Canberra did that’ rather than referring to the Federal, Australian or Commonwealth Government. I have worked in many newsrooms over 37 years and for some in the media, it is a hard habit to break.

To tell the truth, I probably did it before I came to Canberra 30 years ago. Since then, I have joined in the fortress-like defence of the city and the community.

The perception of the city by many ‘outsiders’, is of a cold, cliquey community, not in tune with the hardships and variables faced by the rest of Australia; so in essence, we are fair game.

That perception, I think, goes some way in understanding why our sporting teams seemingly get treated like the unwanted relative at the Christmas dinner. You are part of the family but, at times, you get the feeling they wouldn’t really care if you weren’t there.

The Raiders must be feeling like that unloved relative at the moment as they struggle to get leverage in decision making, which ultimately impacts on the Club. The refereeing blunders at Shark Park fall into this narrative, as does the overruling of the Jack Wighton punishment by the NRL.

Those with a memory talk about the Sydney-driven opposition faced by the Raiders to get into the NSW Rugby League in the first place in 1982. The Raiders’ bid-team at the time had to convince the decision makers that Canberra airport wasn’t constantly fogged in as some in Sydney club-land suggested. The argument presented by those opposing the Raiders’ admission was that visiting teams wouldn’t be able to get to Canberra because of the fog. Thankfully, common sense prevailed and the Raiders were admitted and, somewhat surprisingly, no game has ever been called off at Canberra Stadium or Seiffert Oval because of visiting teams being stranded at a fogged-bound Canberra Airport.

There have been campaigns over the years to halt the progress of the Brumbies. A couple come to mind, including kicking Canberra schools out of NSW competitions, or the treatment of the Canberra Kookaburras and the Canberra Vikings or the whispering campaign last year over the future of the Brumbies. It was one thing after another. The Brumbies were in line to be axed despite being the only Australian team to win two Super Rugby titles. A merger with the Melbourne Rebels was also on the cards.

Once again, there was a perception that it was aimed at destabilising the Brumbies.

The axing of the Canberra Comets’ cricket team in the one-day series still rankles with many in the sport. There was the decision by the FFA not to include Canberra in the A-League only to see the league put their own team into Western Sydney. Then there was the banning of Canberra racehorses in some of the big races in Sydney, because Canberra facilities are deemed to be ‘too good’.

Hard to promote Canberra sports when there are constant barriers placed in the way.

Which is why we should be grateful as a community that Ricky Stuart is on our side. When he suggested that Canberra gets treated differently, he was speaking on behalf of many in this city.

What’s Your opinion?


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15 Responses to
Does Canberra have a siege mentality?
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Joan O'Callaghan 8:12 am 24 Jul 18

100% correct, Mr Gavel.

    Joan O'Callaghan 8:42 am 24 Jul 18

    Shock jocks revel in beating up a frenzy of Canb'ra-blaming. They don't care! They don't cop the threats and assaults that they provoke. I warn young locals, esp' girls, "Be careful about admitting where u r from. Unbelievably, some people genuinely believe that 'u', as a Canberran, r plotting the red tape that makes their lives a living hell. Thus u can cop anything from a rant to a rape." Youngins doubt. Oldies know the truth.

JC 8:17 pm 23 Jul 18

Ricky is certainly right about the football team. I would have a bet that if the storm were in the position that Canberra were in the other night the result would have been different.

I don’t think the league is against Canberra as such but more there are higher profile teams that get away with things that would cost the lower profile teams umpteen penalties.

And getting into conspiracy theories here now but the league also needs a a Queensland team in the finals to keep interest and to have a finals game north of the border. But one are where Canberra does get the raw deal compared to other non Sydney teams is no guarantee of hosting a prelim final whereas Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Cowboys are. Go figure.

At least rugby is different but NSW did try and get a Brumbies home grand final hosted in Syndey all those long years ago.

Stephen Matthews 8:02 pm 23 Jul 18

More people going to the games would help

Jim Roy 7:50 pm 23 Jul 18

If you think you’re being demonised, you’ll see every call that way, move on people.

Jon Billows 4:12 pm 23 Jul 18

I think a siege mentality can be useful at times in the right situation. In others it can be for more detrimental.

Unfortunately I feel like Canberra falls in the the second category. Teams like Collingwood and Port Adelaide in the AFL buy into this feeling from the fans and it results it a large passionate, die hard membership base and supporter groups. Canberra sporting fans seem to be much more fickle and disappear when our teams are struggling and there are a lot less of them

Not 2 years ago there were 26K people at a Raiders final and 20K people at a Brumbes/Waratahs clash at GIO. So where have all these people gone? Bandwagoners who do not have that same passionate siege mentality of us against the rest. The pessimism that "oh the Kiwis are gonna win anyway in Rugby" or "the NRL and Sydneysiders will have their way" and then just not even bother turning up

It is my opinion that this attitude is more damaging than helpful to our sporting teams at the moment. maybe its a sign of the times that people drop off now rather than sticking with their team throughout the hard times.The Canberra (and surrounding area) community do not band together in the face of this sporting adversity, They simply just don't bother...

Which is just a damn shame.

    Gabriel Spacca 8:18 pm 23 Jul 18

    Have to agree. And for those that don’t - Exhibit A: The Canberra Cannons. Were THE Canberra side in the late eighties, with a huge following. Then the titles dried up ...

Kerrie Buitendam 4:07 pm 23 Jul 18

Totally agree with everything Tim has said.

Steve Joseph 3:34 pm 23 Jul 18

Good on you Tim! Very well said

Grew up listening to you commentate every raiders game in the 90s; awesome then, and if anything you have only got better with age. You’ve done a lot for the raiders mate, I think they owe you a premiership mate before you hang up the microphone

Green Machine Podcast

Stephen Page-Murray 2:55 pm 23 Jul 18

Well a very senior NRL official did say that if they were re-doing the competition, Canberra wouldn’t be included. Another said they should be allowed to “wither on the vine”.

    David Lindsay 3:50 pm 23 Jul 18

    Yeah, the NRL should sever connection to all grassroots in the ACT and chase expansion in AFL dominant WA...🤔

Gemi Jeffery 2:55 pm 23 Jul 18

I agree completely with Ricky Stuart

David Todd 2:08 pm 23 Jul 18

Poor excuse for not being able to get his team to play for the full 80 minutes.

Rollersk8r 10:29 am 23 Jul 18

I agree with you, there is a link there between Canberra the place – and our sporting teams as outsiders. Although I think this is just human nature. My country relatives definitely believe we’re on easy street. They’re doing very well themselves, but there’s a perception they’ve worked for what they’ve got, whereas it’s all given to us in Canberra. Which is exactly the same criticism always levelled against the GWS Giants. Given everything, free ride to the premiership cup; and they have no right to exist in the first place.

However I would add plenty of this outrage comes from within Canberra too. There is extreme bitterness against certain occupations, the haves and have-nots in certain areas of Canberra, as well as government money spent on our sporting teams.

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