Sam Burgess is a young player who is already playing Test football for England. He is playing for the Bradford Bulls and basically, he could name his price, and how long he wants to stay there.
Want a five year contract? It would be under his nose as soon as the printer could spit it out.
Then again if that wasn’t good enough Burgess could demand even more money at one of the clubs that are cashed up. Hows a five year contract at Wigan, Leeds or Warrington sound?
Burgess doesn’t want any of that though. As soon as he started making waves at the top level, he had his sights set on challenging himself in Australia in the worlds toughest competition, the National Rugby League.
He takes less money and a shorter contract to go and play for a struggling club. Away from family and friends and everything he knows.
Lee Smith is a young player who is already playing Test football for England. He is playing for the Leeds Rhinos and basically, he could ask for a huge salary and a long term contract.
Lee Smith wants more though, he wants a challenge. He sets his sights on switching codes, he signs to play with a Rugby Union team in London, a one hours plane ride away from family, friends and everything he knows.
Problem is….Lee Smith lasts just a few months before scampering back home to Leeds. He is training with the Rhinos squad within hours of a release from his Rugby Union contract and signs a 4 year deal with the club within day of coming back.
So much for wanting a challenge huh?
Smith isn’t alone in his mindset. He has plenty of friends within British Rugby League who have talked about wanting a challenge and then had turned their back on it at the first terrifying sign that it may materialize.
When players like Burgess, Morley, Ellis, Jackson, Howard, Thorman and the like decided to head to Australia, they did so knowing they would be given nothing, they would have to earn their place in the first grade side and that their entire career would hinge on whether they sink or swim.
Morley took a good 18 months before he found his feet. Ellis made a quicker transition but questions still remain. Howard was a solid player, Jackson was a disaster, and Chris Thorman can at least say he joined a list of “The next Peter Sterling’s” at the Parramatta Eels for a short time.
Now matter what level of success they achieved, they all had a dig and gave it a real go, and you have to admire them for that.
I’m always puzzled as to why English players don’t have their eyes on the biggest prize.
Surely the greatest challenge of all is beating Australia, finally, after so many years.
Not a single player in the British game is old enough to have been around the last time England or Great Britain could have any claim on being the top Rugby League nation in the world.
Super League titles are a dime a dozen. Play for Leeds or St Helens right now and chances are you have a Grand Final winners medal or two, or you are going to win one in the next few years.
Challenge Cup winners, along the same lines. Play for the right team and you are in, you have achieved.
However beating Australia at their own game, now that is a challenge that every single English player should have a burning desire for.
I can’t understand why this challenge doesn’t completely consume more English players.
Why do the young halfbacks of England care more about securing a big contract and moving to a big club for an armchair ride, rather than studying tape, working hard, wanting to be THAT player. The one that finally turned it all around in Englands favour.
Why haven’t we seen a group of players give a wholesale commitment to the cause. Sitting down after yet another devastating loss to the Kangaroos and even committing 2 years to play in the NRL, get up to speed, then come back and beat Australia?
Its not like the financial hit is all that big these days. Exchange rates are more even and hey, you are always assured of an end of career bonus from some club looking to pay you on the reputation you forged in the NRL.
Look at Adrian Morley, he is a shadow of the player he once was. Carrying too much weigh, lacking mobility, lacking that focus and killer instinct, and yet he is on a fat contract at Warrington….he doesn’t have a financial worry in the world!
You can see the desire with Burgess. Even Ellis, he has it easy, going from Wakefield to Leeds. he could have sat back, won titles like all of his team mates and been content.
That wasn’t was drove him though, and its not what drives Burgess.
So Lee Smith wanted a challenge. I’m glad he found one so very, very comfortable.