It’s glorious at the top. The upper echelon of the National Rugby League is a beautiful place. Celebrity status; money; women; and respect. Everything you could have ever wanted in your wildest dreams.
But what about the fringe players? Spare a thought for them.
There is a scene in the Hollywood movie Moneyball where an uncontracted player is offered a shot at redemption – a contract. When the team officials leave the house to let him consider the offer, all he can do is hug his wife. Any player with a family that has been in that situation knows exactly how that feels.
For some, everything comes easily. Everything falls into place when it’s suppose to and they quickly become a rugby league superstar. The public wants to know everything about them and before they know it, they’re the poster on a kid’s wall.
We have all heard a retiring player use the line “rugby league has been good to me”.
But what about guys like the Cronulla Sharks’ Jeff Robson?
The journeyman will continue his career in the Shire in 2012 where he will battle it out with Wade Graham, Chad Townsend and Albert Kelly for the number seven spot.
A guaranteed contract at the Sharks is a big improvement from his days at the Manly Sea Eagles where he only played six games in five years.
Robson also had to work as a greenkeeper in his days at Parramatta, where on one occasion a security guard refused to let him into the ground because they didn’t believe he was a footballer.
And for what? In a few years, Robson will probably end up retiring and fading from our memory like many have done before him.
Michael Lett made his debut for the Sydney Roosters in 2005. Later that year he was named in the Junior Kangaroos side to play games against Papua New Guinea and the junior Kiwis. The squad included such names as Greg Inglis, Todd Carney, Karmichael Hunt and Jarrod Mullen.
Since then, Lett has spent time at the Dragons and now the Bulldogs. All for eleven games.
Sometimes things don’t go to plan. In 2003, the Penrith Panthers made both the NRL and the reserve grade grand finals. It was a huge day for the club and all the players involved.
Veteran prop Colin Ward was named 18th man for the NRL team in case of injury and warmed up with the side. Unfortunately for him, that meant he missed out on playing in either game.
The existence of a rugby league player at the bottom of the food-chain is almost like a fish stuck in a tiny waterhole in the middle of a drought.
All you can do is keep working, and keep scraping and clawing for the hope you get another chance.
The murky, unknowing place of a fringe player is somewhere no one wants to be.