Why are we so angry at Izzy and the code jumpers?
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Let’s get one thing straight: code hopping isn’t a new thing. It’s been happening for years, so why is there such anxiety around it in the modern day?
Some of the articles written about Israel Folau’s move to Rugby, including The Roar’s David Lord and Sydney Morning Herald’s Richard Hinds have read more like letters written by an angry teenage girl who has just been dumped by her boyfriend.
They tend to forget that Folau a) played union in his younger years and b) stated from the start he wanted to stay in Sydney, be it playing league or union.
To me he seems to be a pretty nice sort of guy-but perhaps that the cause of the angst Folau. We don’t want to see him as some cheap ‘I’ll holla for a dollar!’ money chaser, and we don’t want him to be a Sonny Bill Williams or a Quade Cooper.
The same point can be applied with Brad Thorn. He is widely admired for his hard work, durability and his improvement with age.
Yet he jumped from league to union twice, and represented both Australia and New Zealand. Was he chasing the bucks, torn, or bored?
At least Williams has only ever represented New Zealand in either rugby code, and changed codes twice. Again, perhaps we have ignored the crime because we like him as a person.
It is also interesting to note how Karmichael Hunt is now being left out of the conversation.
As the first high-profile footballer to jump from league to Aussie Rules, he copped a lot of flak for being a dollar chaser when he first moved, but is it now ok to chase the bucks if you’re good at the sport and people enjoy watching you?
The same could be said about Lote Toqiri and Mat Rogers and their respective moves between the Rugby codes.
The AFL community may have generally been annoyed by the whole Israel Folau saga from start to finish, yet they ignore Mike Pyke (rugby), Setanta O’hAilpin (hurling) and Dean Brogan (basketball).
When Elyse Perry was told by Canberra United FC to choose between football and cricket, it was Canberra that was chastised, and Perry moved to Sydney FC where she could continue to do both.
Imagine if Archie Thompson was a potential first-drop batsman, with a good technique, for the Australian cricket team.
Do you think he would be allowed to be a Socceroo wearing a baggy green cap? I like Elyse Perry, and the way she goes about her sport, but perhaps playing two sports internationally sends the wrong message about professionalism in women’s sport.
Perhaps that’s the point: professionalism is now firmly entranced in Australian sport, and we don’t like all of it.
We don’t want to see a nice guy like Folau, or a great old warhorse like Thorn, forgoing loyalty or passion to go chasing dollars.
Yet we still want to see the increased skills that professionalism, so it’s ok take the pay if, like Karmichael Hunt, you become a bona fide player in your new code.
The case of Perry shows it from the other side of the mirror. We like her playing two codes because it isn’t the professional thing to do. It’s much more amateur.
It harks back to day when the likes of Simon O’Donnell, Craig Bradley and even Geoff Marsh were playing both first class or international cricket, and league football, because they could.
Or like when Nova Perris-Kneebone went from hockey to athletics for one more crack at a gold medal. It wasn’t about money.
In the modern day, any athlete only has finite time making income. I don’t think there is much of a choice – you have to make hay while the sun shines (and your knees still work).
It would just be nice to believe that there was still a bit of amateur values still in sport. We don’t want athletes chasing bucks. We want to see loyalty, stories, and personalities.
It would be nice to see a batsmen walk, or a footballer not dive and keep going, without the game and their career potentially depending on it.
We want to admire the skill, determination and courage of athletes, not the pay cheque. Code jumping is not admirable, it is a symptom of the ‘sport is a business’ disease.
For now, I hope Israel makes it in rugby, and I hope he enjoys it. It would be a great story.
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