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Lost in the Shire: Why Peter Stirling is the Bill Murray of Rugby League

It is the biggest mystery since the investigation into what exactly Eddie Haysen was thinking during that press conference. We all want to know: just what did Peter Sterling say to Chad Townsend after the Sharks v Cowboys preliminary final. Townsend has done a remarkable thing and stated that he would rather keep it private. What? To himself? That’s not the way of the 21st century rugby league player – privacy is limited to the evanescence of Snapchat. Yeah that’s right, evanescence. Bet you never thought you’d see that word and Snapchat in the same sentence about rugby league.

The point is this: how much better would rugby league be if players, coaches and administrators kept stuff to themselves? Imagine a world where we didn’t know what James Segeyaro was having for dinner – honey king prawns, beef in blackbean sauce, chicken chow mein and a fried rice, yeah large cheers thanks – or which convicted criminal he was having it with? Or a world where Andrew Fifita didn’t write the names of his mates on his arm? All three of them too! That would be as much fun as a ride at Jarrydworld on the Gold Coast but something we could all believe in.

This season is the greatest annus horribilis in rugby league since the last one. In a year of salary cap biatches, #instaexcuses and Stephen Dank memes, the Sterling/Townsend lovefest is the best news since Anthony Mundine agreed to stop giving players lifts to the airport. Clearly, there is one man who is singlehandedly responsible for bringing league back from the brink. And that man is Bill Murray.

Were it not for the ludicrousness of Bill Murray whispering sweet nothings into the ear of an emotional Scarlett Johansson on a busy street in Shibuya, Peter Stirling would have had no reference point for his words to Townsend. None. Nada. Big fat cronut. Sure, Sterlo could have taken the David Lynch route and gone all Mulholland Drive silencio on Townsend, but Sterlo has never struck me as a lesbian noir kind of guy. That’s clearly Wayne Bennett’s thing. Maybe Freddie Fittler too if he’s had a few too many Bacardi Breezers and is running around like an excited puppy.

The fact is, Peter Sterling is the Bill Murray of rugby league. He has the same bald head. The same goofy persona. That singular ability to look confused and a font of all wisdom at the same time. They both have a love for early 80s glam rock at karaoke and oversize meals of shabu shabu. The same legendary status within their field. After all, who else could make a Mazda RX-7 seem like an appealing possibility in 1986? Who else would be able to say, hand on heart, I won a Grand Final, I basically did nothing and the score was 4-2?

If Peter Sterling is the Bill Murray of rugby league, does that make Chad Townsend league’s Scarlett Johansson? The answer, in rugby league talk, is clearly yeahnah. He has, however, displayed all the qualities of the ingénue such that he deserves a medal. Let’s call it a Clive Churchill. But only if James Maloney beats him to it.