Don?t you just hate NRL players? Oh, I?m sure on one level you love them- you wouldn?t be reading this if you weren?t a fan, after all. But on another, deeper level, you despise them. Go on, admit it.
It?s perfectly natural that armchair critics like myself, and so many other forum regulars, would deeply resent the same players that they base a substantial part of their life around. Now, I?m not talking about forum members who are ex-players or administrators, that insidious element in all forums that has a habit of regulating the usually unabated flow of venom and vitriol that pours from the fingertips of the run of the mill fan. It is this very vitriol that keeps us all sane. If we couldn?t rubbish the talents of our so-called favourite players, if we couldn?t ridicule them for having physical abilities that transcend anything we could ever imagine having, then we would never get to sleep at night.
If you haven?t thought about this before (and I?m certain you have), just give it a minute to sink in. You probably live and breathe rugby league. Maybe you catch yourself mentally replaying your team?s greatest moments when you?re sitting in a Uni lecture. Maybe you?re a little like me and still like to dream about what you could do if you were given a chance in the NRL, despite the fact you haven?t played any competitive contact sport for almost a decade and get tired doing the vacuuming. Of course you resent the players- you probably see them as clueless, heartless mercenaries who don?t treasure what they have nearly as much as you would. You?ve probably seen them make straightforward mistakes, and come to the galling realisation that you know ten times as much about rugby league as your favourite player does. If only you were 110kg of solid muscle and could run 100m in 11 seconds, you?d show the world just how clever you were.
Not mad yet? Consider these examples
* Sione Faumuina didn?t play rugby league at all until he was 18 years old. He took the game up in 1999, and made the Auckland and New Zealand under-18 teams that same year. In 2001, aged 19, he was playing first grade for the Canberra Raiders. After nine games he decided he wasn?t really interested in playing for Canberra, so he came back to New Zealand and was immediately given a place in the Warriors squad. He is now a Kiwi international and undoubtedly one of the Warriors? best players.
* Benji Marshall was offered his first league scholarship when, ostensibly, he wasn?t even a league player at all. A touch football rep back home in Whakatane, Benji happened to be spotted when he was roped in to play a game while on a school trip to Keebra Park. He stayed in Australia and played first grade while still at school. He is now a Kiwi international, and already one of the most popular and well-known players in the NRL.
Doesn?t it make you sick? Players like Marshall and Faumuina can end up in first grade almost by accident. They weren?t even fans in the first place- Faumuina, believe it or not, was a Wellington basketball rep who had considered himself ?too skinny? to play rugby union, and had shown no real interest in playing rugby league prior to his meteoric rise. These are the people who, come the weekend, control our mood, determine whether or not we have a good night, and in some cases, define our lives. I?m sure plenty of Warriors fans can?t think about 2004 without remembering their team?s dire season, but do you think Sione looks back on 1995 and mourns the last round defeat to Brisbane that cost the Warriors a finals spot? I doubt it.
There?s probably a message in this somewhere. Sagacious fans should realise that they are investing their emotions in a group of very young, often immature, and not necessarily intelligent men (the latter being especially galling to the league-obsessed pseudo-intellectuals who so dominate these forums- F7s in particular.) No, they probably don?t deserve it- that?s why you have the right, nay, the responsibility, to complain about everything they do. Anyway, after being on the receiving end of a few Sonny Bill shoulder charges, Carl Webb hit-ups, and agonising pre-season training sessions, you might realise that your favourite position in your fantasy NRL career isn?t winger, second-rower or fullback, but whinging, self-righteous fan.
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