I always find it a little strange when I see that Rugby League is called upon once again to right all the wrongs in society. The NRL is a sporting competition that features a narrow band of young men within society between the ages of around 17 to 35, whose financial status varies considerably, but all of whom have some sort of profile in terms of being in the public spotlight.
Like any other part of life, you can not expect to agree with the choices that hundreds of these young men make with their lives. I would suggest that most people can’t begin to imagine the lifestyle professional Rugby League players have, because the simple fact is that even players within the NRL ranks themselves wouldn’t fully grasp the issues their own team mates face.
Do you think a million dollar a year player like Johnathan Thurston really understands what a fringe first grader goes through each year, barely making the team, considering whether he should give up on the NRL and going out in the world to get a “real” job? Do you think that fringe first grader really understands the pressure Thurston is under, knowing that an injury sinks his entire clubs hopes, that every week he needs to be the best player on the field, and knowing that he can’t really go anywhere within Australia without being recognized?
NRL players lead extraordinary lives, and it all happens in a short space of time. Then, its all over. The “real” world is always waiting for them.
We see from time to time the moral outrage, fueled by the media, when ever one of these players does something that most people deem to be unexceptionable. A thousand stupid meme’s are launched, talk back radio goes into meltdown as old people talk about the decay of modern society, social media goes into a frenzy, and clubs are eventually forced to act.
Sometimes it seems like it is needed. At other times I wonder if these modern day crusades are going too far.
Take a look at the latest “crisis” to grip the NRL…
Cronulla Sharks forward Andrew Fifita is friends with someone in jail. This week the media has been all over this “story” and I’m not really sure why.
I don’t care about what players do when they are away from the footy field. As long as it isn’t something dangerous or completely stupid that hurts the games image, they can do what they like.
Earlier this week there were headlines stating that Fifita has been warned about who he was associating with. Warned by who? What moral white knight with no flaws decided who Andrew Fifita can and can’t be friends with? On what basis does anyone within Rugby League think they have the right to tell another grown adult what they do in their personal time.
Would I do what Fifita is doing? No. Here is the secret though….I’m not Andrew Fifita, and neither are you.
The hypocrisy within the game is the best part about all of this. You see, in an ideal world, off field issues a player may or may not have would effect his value on the player market. An NRL club that deems a player to behave in socially unacceptable ways would decide against signing certain players, this would effect those players earning capacity, and market forces would make players themselves change their ways so they don’t hurt their own income.
In reality, that is all bullshit. You can bash women, you can be an alcoholic, you can go to jail for assault, you can be a drug dealer….you can pretty much do anything you like….as long as you can play a bit of footy, Rugby League will not only welcome you back with open arms, it will embrace you as a success story and go out of its way to raise your status to new heights.
Let me tell you right now, Andrew Fifita having a friend in jail and scribbling something on wrist taping during a game is far less offensive then some of the actual crimes current and former NRL players have been allowed to brush aside as they continued their careers.
You don’t have to agree with Rugby League players lifestyles. You don’t have to approve of their friends. You don’t have to be behind their causes. You don’t have to even like them.
Worry about your own life. That is what is really important to you. What Andrew Fifita does in his own spare time is of not interest to me at all. If there are consequences that come from it, I don’t have to deal with them, he does. He knows that!
The last thing this game needs if for some false sense of moral outrage to carpet bomb the NRL playing ranks every so often, because it is all a load of bullshit anyway. If Andrew Fifita was tearing up the NRL and was the best player in the world, his club and the Rugby League supporter base wouldn’t give a shit about who his mates were.
Andrew Fifita is living his life the way he sees fit. Its about time large chunks of the NRL supporter base and the media start worrying about their own lives more than they do some strangers life who just happens to play football.
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