For once the key talking point of a footy game isn’t the refereeing. But curiously, it’s a kiss.
While the men meet in the second State of Origin rugby league match on Sunday night, the women’s NSW Blues and Queensland Maroons clashed on Friday, and the post-match debate over the weekend is all about a kiss between rivals Karina Brown and Vanessa Foliaki.
New Zealand-born Blue Foliaki and Queensland skipper Brown have been in a relationship for four years, having met when they were both selected for the national women’s side, the Jillaroos, in 2014.
They live together in Brisbane, where Foliaki has a framed Blues jersey on the wall at home.
They made a bet that if Brown’s side won, Foliaki would have to buy her a framed Maroon’s jersey and it would have pride of place in the home for the next 12 months.
That was all the motivation Foliaki, one of the toughest players on the field – and even tougher on her partner in the mate versus mate tradition when they face each other – needed. NSW won 16-10.
You can read all about the pair and their loving relationship on the NRL website here.
And then after the game, they kissed.
The NRL put it on Facebook.
And the Women’s NRL posted it on Twitter with the caption “Love always wins”.
— Women's Rugby League (@WRugbyLeague) June 22, 2018
It certainly got everyone’s attention.
The Facebook post has more than 25,000 reactions, nearly 4000 comments and more than 3100 shares
But not everyone was happy.
Matt, for example, was concerned about the public outrage “if two blokes kissed exactly like that after an Origin”.
Keep that crap to the dressing shed or at home. We don’t care if you are partners, girlfriends, lovers etc good luck to you, do what ever you want, no discrimination or judgement here just keep it off the field and let your football do the talking. Bad move NRL, there may be young girls coming through put off by this.
The NRL’s response to the issues Matt raised?
“Hey Matt, welcome to 2018… can’t wait for you to join us!”
But to Matt’s point, this isn’t exactly like Brown and Foliaki:
They’re both Maroons for starters.
But blokes have been kissing blokes on the football field forever without anyone getting too worried.
And Origin legend Cameron Smith is a serial offender when it comes to post-game smooching.
The father of three has been embarrassing his kids after matches for years and as Matt warns the NRL “there may be young girls coming through put off by this”.
Kissing them after game 3 in Brisbane in 2017.
Kissing son Jasper after game 3 in Brisbane in 2013.
Kissing an inanimate object he’d just won (aka the World Club Challenge trophy) in 2013.
Kissing his baby daughter Jada, just 5 days old, in March 2008.
Incidentally, that photo reminded us of last year when AFL commentator Garry Lyon got stuck into Adelaide Crows co-captain Erin Phillips when she carried her four-month old twins, Brooklyn and Blake, on to the field in the inaugural AFL women’s competition.
Phillips made headlines again when she kissed her wife, Tracy Gahan, after winning the AFL Women’s inaugural Best and Fairest award in 2016.
But back to Cameron Smith:
Kissing Jada after game 3 in Brisbane in 2015.
Of course the kiss on the lips debate is one for the ages, just ask David Beckham, who invited the wrath of the internet to rain down upon him this time 12 months ago when he kissed his daughter, Harper, then 5, on the lips to celebrate her birthday.
Hilary Duff copped similar grief in 2016 for kissing her son outside Disneyland in 2016.
This was her response:
The NRL must be getting used to this sort of controversy.
When US rapper Macklemore sang his mega-hit One Love, about same-sex marriage, ahead of the national plebiscite, at the grand final last year, Liberal backbencher Tony Abbott said sport should not be politicised.
When one Facebook critic accused the NRL of “sexualising the women’s league” with the kiss photo, the organisation responded: “If we can post a [photo] of Cooper Cronk and his wife Tara kissing, then we can share a photo of Karina Brown and Ness Foliaki sharing a moment too”.
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