Off the Wall

There is just one aspect of the rise and rise of Jarryd Hayne that troubles me - the enormous pressure being put on him by the declaration that he is the games "next superstar", and even "potentially the best ever" and so on.

Don't get me wrong, Hayne is playing outstanding football, and he has worked hard to put past problems behind him, principally by being refreshingly honest about them.

But he deserves a fair go - and that does not include having unfair pressure and expectations being put on him. We tend to forget that although Jarryd is in his fourth season of first grade, he is just 21 years old.

After all the off fields problems involving high profile players we have been through, administrators and fans alike are desperate for new stars and "role models". That is understandable - but is it the only way to promote the game?

There are reports that Jarryd Hayne is to become the "face" of the finals series. That is surely a bit risky - the Eels are in great form, but they are not even guaranteed a spot in the final eight!

There is no doubt that Hayne is a success story in terms of his dominant role in the Eels season turnaround, and in getting on the right track off the field as well.

But do we need to elevate him to absolute superstar status already? And for a finals series his team might not even be in?

If the NRL needs a marketing front for the finals series, surely it can do better than singling out one player? Why not make a group of diehard fans from a range of clubs the focus? Or perhaps a group of team support start who work around the clock, largely unsung, to keep teams in tip top shape?

Because of the media coverage players get - and the salaries they are paid - the total focus in the game is on them, for better or for worse.

But rugby league depends on a whole range of hard working, uncomplicated and wholly dedicated, men AND women to continue to be successful. Coaches, masseurs, trainers, physios, and medicos, stats people, and dressing room attendants among them...

And it still depends on volunteers who sell doubles, and keep the junior teams and clubs that are the games future afloat by raffles, barbeques and any number of other fundraising mechanisms.

If we have to have a people-focussed marketing campaign for the finals, why not include the unsung "heroes" to be found in each and every club as well as the players we all see week in week out?

But let us not repeat the mistakes of the past - and stop putting too much focus, and pressure, on individual players, no matter how well they are playing and behaving.

Jarryd Hayne is doing both very well indeed. He needs to be encouraged to continue doing so - without pressure he neither needs nor deserves!

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