Old cliches about league and union surface again
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The Craig Wing and Timana Tahu transfers this week provided a great insight into the way that league and union followers view their own patch of the world. It’s remarkable just how many old stereotypes fill airwaves, column inches and cyberspace.
It didn’t take long for rugby commentators for allude to the idea that they thought Tahu just another thick leaguie who couldn’t grasp the cerebral sport of union (Richard Loe PhD).
It is the same when a union player is branded weak and unable to tackle when he fails in his transition to league, Garrick Morgan, for example.
The same from the league side: Tahu was bored and wasted in rugby.
The union crowd has also been quick to dismiss the idea of ever returning to the league to cherry pick their talent again. But this claim always has a quick caveat: unless they are young or have some sort of union background.
Considering a huge chunk of schools play both, it is hardly unlikely these days anyone would not finish their schooling without having dabbled in the other sport, particularly with so many talented athletes graduating from sports high schools.
But in the end, does it even matter, as we are all told sport is business.
Players will chase the biggest pay packet, even if they are unsure of their own success, while administrators will chase the biggest stars for the “bums on seats factor.”
In modern day sport, the results on the field are only part of the equation.
When players chase the dollars, the age old line is “what would you do if another company offered to double your wages?”
It’s worth remembering when a player leaves, as well.
So he didn’t work, oh well. He was well paid, and providing he made a genuine effort, can have a clean conscience for his pay cheque. If the same thing happened in your line of work, would you hand back the money?
Part of our anger towards the supposed failures probably comes from the enormous expectations we place on these ‘converts’.
Because we love the sport we follow, we want everyone who plays it to enjoy it as well. When they seem unhappy, it is a slight against our own choices.
Union fans would have seen the images of Tahu slam dunking the ball over the cross bar for the Eels and pictured him doing the same for the Waratahs and Wallabies. The forlorn figure on the bench wasn’t the sort of reality anybody wanted.
But the same has occurred again with Craig Wing.
The ink had barely dried on his contract before he was being talked up as a potential World Cup star and marquee signing for the Melbourne franchise.
His career with the Rabbitohs and Roosters was largely glanced over as we were reminded about his schoolboy rugby achievements.
All this for a player largely looking to secure a pay cheque to cover up a failed third party deal and some poor investment decisions.
George Orwell wrote about the never-ending war, it is the same with union and league: every debate ends with a list of future world beaters which will keep the respective code in rude health.
I doubt the two sets of bickering fans could actually survive without the other, and I know that whatever mistakes have been made in the past are sure to occur again.
It’s sport, after all.
But events of this week, and the discussions (a diplomatic term) that followed, make me laugh when I think some people believe that a merged code could actually become a reality.