When it comes to Australian sports satirists/comedians, there’s a few standouts: the legendary Roy & H.G., Titus O’Reily, The 12th Man (Billy Birmingham), Dan Liebke, and Denis Carnahan (to name a few).
Dane Eldridge is a new rugby league satirist, creator of Dane Eldridge and FB NRL Fan: an old-school fan who hasn’t been to the footy since the Winfield Cup days and has a number of Charlie Kelly-esque conspiracy theories about The Greatest Game of All.
These theories – and much more – are in Dane’s new book The Truth About Rugby League, which is available on Amazon.
Nothing But League spoke with Dane about the new book, upcoming projects, and what the Facebook NRL Fan thinks about the future of the NRL
How did the Facebook NRL Fan character come about? And what gave you the idea for this book?
Rugby league has always been my passion, and always will be. But the game’s never been all about scoring tries and pretending to know what ‘shapes’ means. It’s always been about the soap opera.
And in recent times, the game has become an unknowing pawn in the culture wars. Basically, ‘Millennials v Boomers’ is the new Origin. Both tribes use rugby league as a vessel to further their agendas by warring over topics like punching bans and the Tigers’ 286 switch jerseys. And it’s a battle I have always found weirdly intoxicating.
Facebook NRL Fan has emerged from years of enjoying this theatre. He is the distilled result of all the middle-aged talkback fiends who hate young people and yearn for the return of Presidents Cup and the NSWRL. The book is him basically saying, “I’ve got too much to say and 280 characters isn’t cutting it” and/or, “Perhaps this could be a viable tax rort.”
Did you do a lot of research for the individual team chapters? Was it just off-the-cuff writing? Or a bit of both?
Sure did, but I wouldn’t call it 60 Minutes-standard investigative research.
Put it this way – despite sponging decades of hot takes and urban myths about the game, sometimes you’re forced to verify if Souths did actually lead the Western Reds at halftime in Round 12, 1996.
But other than that, there’s a lot of ‘feel’ and ‘recycling’. The protein in Facebook NRL Fan‘s diet is mostly tropes – the ‘reheated mince’ of low-level online discourse. This made the job somewhat easier, and the substance light. In short, the deepest dive for a fact I had to take was for the correct spelling of ‘Schifcofske’, which I’ll get your editor to double check here for me too, if that’s sweet. [EDITOR’S NOTE: It was spelled correctly.]
Who are your favourite rugby league journalists? And which ones can’t you stand?
As a bloke with a trivial number of online followers and a meagre profile, I need to be careful what I say here. But let’s be honest – ‘journalist’ is such a loose term these days. Are we referring to those in the mainstream, namely traditional print media? Or the good ones?
I reckon the rugby league audience is slowly shedding its skin like a python, and the ‘old boys’ club’ is on the way out. The modern fan wants carefully-researched deep-dives about on-field matters, not ‘gotcha’ pics of three Bulldogs passed out in Crown Street after 25 Mimosas.
As for me, I guess you could say I pick equally from across the whole spectrum, just to ensure I maintain equal parts informed and deluded.
You’re writing a follow-up “2022 year in review” book. How’s that progressing?
It’s going adequately, especially considering the madness of life.
Somehow, despite a wife, two kids, a full-time job, and an undying devotion to beer, I’m already up to Round 25!
Here’s what happens: Canterbury beat Penrith to knock them out of the finals race and cement their spot in the top four, and Gus exclaims on 100% Footy, “I always said when we signed Trent Barrett that Mick Potter was the right man for the job.”
I’m quietly confident that’s how the season will play out, and there’ll be no reason to redraft my entire manuscript.
Finally – stepping into the shoes of the Facebook NRL Fan – how would he see the NRL 10 years from now?
Firstly, Peter V’Landys would be gone. But only because he was poached to become the first president of Australia. In his place would be an up-and-coming star of sports administration. Most would suggest Christian Welch, but he defects to Rugby when PVL folds the Storm in favour of an 10th Sydney franchise in 2028.
So someone else with the vigour of youth; I’d say John Quayle. Basically, anyone but Todd Greenberg.
As for the on-field action, the game would feature 10 tackle sets with two balls on the field at all times, and it would suck. But it would be the fault of Andrew Abdo.