Australian animated series Bluey is winning widespread adoration yet again, this time for a new episode that depicts the age-old rivalry of the annual State of Origin rugby league match.
Veteran sports commentator Ray Warren – who retired earlier this month after calling 99 Origin games – is heard in the opening lines of the episode titled The Decider: “It is winner takes all tonight.” His commentary booms from a broadcast where Bluey – along with family and friends – have gathered to watch Queensland play NSW from their Brisbane home.
Tensions run high over the six-minute episode, which also features the voices of former rugby league player Johnathan Thurston and commentator Gordon Bray. Bluey’s family are rusted-on supporters of the Maroons (Queensland’s “purple team”, she calls them) – a given for an animated series that was created in Brisbane.
But her neighbor Chucky must decide which state to back: his dad is from Queensland, and his mum from NSW.
“Whenever Dad’s color is happy, Mum is sad,” Chucky says. “But whenever Mum’s color is happy, Dad is sad.”
The dogs flit back and forth between Bluey’s porch, where everyone is uproariously cheering the Maroons, and Chucky’s neighboring house, where his mum, Janelle, is vying for the Blues alone.
“Dad, don’t boo Mum!” Chucky begs, after her father heckles her from across the yard.
Bluey, which is well into its third season on the ABC, is known for its trademark complexity, introducing knotty emotions into family programming without a magical, easy solution.
Chucky’s dilemma is no different: his final choice leads to a brief – albeit heart-wrenching – moment for the disappointed parent.
The episode has been praised for its portrayal of the intense community innate to sports – and what it means to go against the grain of your family’s team.
“It’s a lesson of the reality that decisions for children are hard when they know that someone they love is going to be hurt, no matter what they decide,” wrote ABC sports lead Kyle Pollard in a tribute to the episode.
On Twitter, users took the opportunity to induct their own children into the sporting rivalry.
Others pointed to the sheer accuracy of the episode, both in the relatable heartbreak of the losing team, and a moment in the game where a try is – controversially – overturned by a TV replay.
Fans celebrated the State of Origin inclusion as another local nod in a globally successful show that has eschewed universality to firmly situate itself in Queensland.
Past episodes have featured a CityCat – a ferry service along the Brisbane River – and the recognizable landscape of Brisbane suburb Red Hill.
Warren’s appearance also marks the latest in a series of famous guest appearances on Bluey.
A recent episode featured Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda as an affable horse, while Natalie Portman had a voice spot narrating a whale documentary earlier in the season.
This year’s real-life State of Origin continues with Sunday’s eagerly anticipated Game 2 in Perth, where the Maroons can wrap up the series with victory over the Blues, before the teams reconvene in Brisbane for the final match of 2022 next month.
Season three of Bluey is currently airing on the ABC in Australia. The season lands in the UK and the US later this year.