Is player pinching really theft?
During this week’s session with my touch team (yes it may have taken place in the local pub instead of the field), I got to talking to one of my team mates who had just returned from a three year stint playing for a UK rugby club.
Now 29-years old and recovering from a serious injury which forced him to return to Australia, he was at that dreary point in his life which all professional footballers eventually have to face.
What to do for income now?
Fortunately for him he knuckled down a great contract and managed to walk away with some decent coin giving him some time under his belt to figure out his options for the future.
It is now honed into any young footballer that they must strike while the iron is hot. Opportunities that provide great financial gain are rare and as we have come to learn, changing your national allegiance is often required.
After this weekend’s dismal Bledisloe Cup result, much of the talk has been about controversial Wallaby Mike Harris, a New Zealand born and raised flyhalf who only moved across the ditch two years ago after serving his earlier years with provincial club North Harbour.
Harris qualifies for Australia due to a grandmother who was born here.
Cranky All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had a dig at Harris post match, accusing Australia of poaching the Kiwi native in an off-the-cuff reply during the after match press conference.
“It’s time you start developing players in your own country,” he responded after being questioned if it was embarrassing that Harris went unnoticed by the NZRU.
Harris and Australia Rugby Union’s John O’Neill were quick to fire back, pointing the finger at New Zealand’s previous recruiting of Pacific Islanders.
“I would not even want to guess how many players born in the South Pacific islands have worn the All Blacks’ jersey – the reality is there are players who will look for opportunities to play test rugby,” O’Neill responded.
And so the tiresome player allegiance debate is again doing its rampant rounds through the rugby community. Not wanting to miss out on the chat, I put it to two of my kiwi mates both playing over here after having picked up Australian Super Rugby contracts.
“If there seemed no chance of you ever wearing the black jersey, would you represent Australia,” I put to them.
Both said they would, to quote one: “You have to take the best opportunity available, embrace it and never look back.”
Now this does suck to admit, but in today’s game you have to go where the financial safety and stability is and I commend Harris on making it into the Wallabies squad.
Harris, a former New Zealand under-20′s squad member, a squad which boasted the likes of current All Blacks Israel Dagg and Aaron Smith, would have been insane to turn down any opportunity with the Wallabies. If he didn’t he would more than likely be another Super Rugby player eventually looking for financial reward overseas.
“I played in New Zealand for 20 years and I wasn’t getting an opportunity but got one with the Reds and (coach) Ewen McKenzie. And I’m thankful for that,” Harris told the media on Monday.
“I have got Australian blood and am proud to be Australian, if that makes me eligible, then so be it.”
Gone are the early days of international rugby where all that ever counted aside from on field form was residency. Professional rugby is just that – professional. Your humble footy player is now a businessman and must treat football as profitable enterprise.
If that means turning your back on your country then so be it.
Worked for Russell Crowe.
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