In the last 48 hours I have seen two different photos of two different players having a quiet beer at a pub. They were not doing anything wrong. They were not causing any trouble. They were just two people having a quiet drink.
These players were, without their knowledge, photographed during what I would consider to be private time away from the game.
One of the players in question is Blake Ferguson, who is no longer a Rugby League player. The other player I will not name but they have had issues with alcohol in the past.
What are we doing to out players if they can not even go out for a quiet drink these days? I can understand if a player is acting up or carrying on in public and someone gets a picture or a video of that. However, to get to the point where people are secretly taking photos of players private lives to try and catch them in a “Gotcha!” moment is just flat out wrong!
Put yourself in the shoes of an NRL player…
Most of us can go out and go about our daily lives in complete anonymity. Simple things like going to get petrol or picking up a loaf of bread are nothing to us. For some NRL players they know that simple acts like this will no doubt mean many sets of eyes will be on them. If people come up to them to say hello or ask for autographs, they basically have to be in “work” mode as a representative of the club and the game.
Add to that the fact that the public changes the way they react to some players based on what they do on the field, and sometimes what they do off of it. A mistake that costs a game can see a young bloke heckled as he goes about his daily life. Some people even confront players, looking to cause trouble or even start a fight.
The scrutiny comes with rewards, and every single player in the National Rugby League would point that out. You have to take the bad with the good, and even on a minimum NRL contract players get paid pretty well.
There needs to be a line however that people do not cross. There needs to be a point where common decency kicks in people realise that players are just regular people too.
We don’t want to get to a point where players need to shut themselves away for their entire careers and not interact with the public because it becomes more trouble than its worth. Being a professional Rugby League player should be a dream come true, not an invasive nightmare.
I know personally I see a number of Penrith Panthers players just going about their lives in Penrith from time to time. I don’t go up to them, I don’t say hello and I don’t ask for autographs. When ever I see them I often wonder how conscious they are of the people around them and that, no matter where they go, they are in effect on show.
The way I see it, I’m one less person they need to talk to. One less person that will take their time up. They play footy for me week in, week out, and for that I’m more than happy to let them have their own time when they are off the clock.
Rugby League players are overwhelmingly great when it comes to dealing with supporters. Most would say that if you see them out and about, by all means say hello. Be respectful of them though and realise that they are just people like you or I living a life that is in the spotlight and that no one prepares you for.
And please, let them have a quiet drink at the pub without worrying that they are under surveillance…
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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