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Into its thirteenth year of existence, the Forum 7's Competition is as strong as ever, with writers continuing to pump out quality articles which put most journos to shame.
This week one of our favourite articles to be submitted is by user Bubbles, who put together a strong piece on player loyalty.
Ever since I started following the sport of choice for my new State, NSW, I have heard the word 'loyalty' mentioned above any other in relation to Rugby League. Back then it was focused around the Super League break-away competition and was measured by what side of the fence a particular club sat on. Fans of clubs who remained faithful to the old regime exhibited a righteous smugness reserved for the morally just, while fans from the clubs that jumped the fence for promised greener pastures displayed a defiant loyalty with an undercurrent of discomfit and dare I say it, just a smidgeon of shame.
Regardless of loyalties during this dark era in the game's history, I think few would deny that it was the catalyst for a dramatic shift in the game, a movement that has tripped and clambered its way through the Noughts and is only just reaching its promised growth in the present. I'm talking, of course, about the issuing in of the era of a professional sporting organisation/competition.
The fight has been fought and is being won, finally, against the constraints and limitations placed on this great sport by the 'old boys' mentality upon which the game was based since its inception at the beginning of the 20th Century. Nothing has held the game back quite so much as this culture of tradition above growth, jobs for the boys and self-interest and preservation ahead of the game. It has taken great upheaval and dramatic changes to the top tier of the sport itself, but finally Rugby League has been dragged, often kicking and screaming, into the new era of professionalism it needed to in order to compete on the domestic and international stage of modern day sports administration.
And the fans rejoiced! It has been the one uniting theme amongst the fandom of the sport, this desire to see our game reach its much promised potential and while we're not quite there yet (and let's face it, we won't be happy until it becomes the premier sport on the planet and the game of choice in the afterlife!) it appears the general consensus is that we're on the right path, with the right leadership to take us forward.
What I find amusing is that while we're happy for the game itself to be professional and business-like, so many fans seem to think that the players should make themselves exempt from this new ethos. The professionalism we demand from our administrators and clubs does not seem to extend from the fans to allow the players to seek the best employment opportunities available to them, be it from rival clubs or rival codes. The cold hard fact in this brave new world is that the kind of player loyalty the game favoured in the past, that of the one-club player spending an entire career adorned in the same colours, is just that, a thing of the past. Of course there are exceptions and of course we still see the odd player here and there who will take a pay cut to stay with their club of choice, but for the most part these players are becoming the exception rather than the rule. And this will only become more and more of an anomaly as the game continues on its current path.
It is time for fans to not just pick and choose what they like about this golden age of professional Rugby League, but to accept the aspects they don't find particularly appealing. We have to acknowledge that, with some exceptions aside, players do not have the same lifelong, undying loyalty to our respective clubs that we, the fans, do. Make no mistake, for the vast majority, while they are representing and playing for a club they are faithful servants to the colours they wear, but to ask that to extend beyond contract periods, for their loyalty to morph into lifelong devotion is unrealistic and frankly, restrictive to the players' right to earn what they can from their sporting prowess.
Embrace the new era, people. Love and adore the players while they run out on the field to represent your club, but then just as equally, allow them their right to seek further opportunities. Then, sit back and wish injuries and bad sh*t upon them when they're playing in rival colours; it's the way of the League fan way after all, so embrace it and let's all move forward together.
If you are interested in being involved in our writing competition, head to the League Unlimited Forums and follow the links to express your interest. It's super easy to get started and become part of a team. We have a very strong community with awesome writers who want to do nothing but help each other get better!