What is the cost of becoming an NRL footballer?

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They say success breeds expectation and it does, but regardless of the team you support it applies to all sporting teams. Considering the pressure that it brings, what is the cost of becoming a professional rugby league player?

Firstly, success is a step to wanting to achieve more success, and when fulfillment occurs and goals are achieved it’s easy to settle for average or think ‘we made it’.

This ultimately distinguishes the difference between a team of champions and a team of ‘wannabe’ champions.

Unfortunately the cost of winning or lack of winning can cost those professional athletes their livelihood.

Metaphorically speaking, it’s a ‘dog-eat-dog world’ or in other words, survival of the fittest, but it is testament to the ugly nature professional sport brings with the being the best.

The expectation of our professional athletes have grown exponentially over the past few decades as the expectation of winning is so important to fans or the glory hunters, corporate investors with their big bucks and the broadcasters of the sport.

The weight of the pressure can sometimes become too much.

There is so much pressure and expectation that maybe teams like Cronulla Sharks feel as though there is no other way to meet the demand, or that players feel a need to cheat or perhaps crumble under the weight of expectation.

Players like Ben Barba, Josh Dugan and former bad boy Todd Carney.

It seems there is and will never be a reasonable or logical solution to ensuring these stars are not lost forever to the game of rugby league.

Now it may sound like I’m all for cheating and turning a blind eye to the behavioural issues that occur, but I’m not.

I do not condone cheating and I honestly believe cheating is seen as a last resort for those who know no better and the constant behavioural issues rearing their ugly head on a regular basis need to be stamped out with an iron fist.

The image currently being portrayed by the NRL is that the game is a family friendly environment and with that, children are the clear target audience.

The current Sharks scandal and constant indiscretions from superstars do rugby league a disservice and provide no foreseeable end to what is constantly affecting every single NRL season.

When will sporting fans be provided with just sport, rather than a constant tirade of problems?

Or perhaps the fans are to blame? Why you may ask me? Well as mentioned earlier, success breeds expectation.

Perhaps a classic example of this, is the football club, the Brisbane Broncos.

Since 1988, the Brisbane Broncos have produced six premierships, four minor premierships, a Club World Challenge victory, no end to the number of representative players developed and the list goes on and ultimately the success the Broncos have bred can be seen as their down fall.

If Brisbane supporters are too ignorant to agree with me and to naive to see what is occurring, then we must all be living under a rock and just encase you were wondering, I’m a Broncos supporter until I die.

Broncos are constantly ridiculed for their support or lack of. With a city of over two million people and such rich history you would expect higher memberships and attendances then almost every other NRL club?

The Broncos are not the only side here with these issues though. It’s the fickle nature of Australian supporters that speak louder than a string of poor form. I don’t discredit the effort portrayed by core support either, so don’t confuse the two.

This fickle type can be described no less than either glory hunters or bandwagoners.

Now obviously the fickle type can be converted to core supporters but trends would suggest that although the popular nature of the game attendances are far from reflective of the popularity, people would rather sit at home and watch via the television screen.

The corporate support and dollars are determined by numbers and what speaks louder than attendances and viewing?

So with numbers you’ll find you then have the corporate support and now the dollars behind the club.

Sustaining this ultimately comes back to the performance of the players and expectations on them that require results to ensure yearly financial reports or objectives are meeting board expectations.

I can’t help but feel for our professional athletes of today. The expectations on our former idols did not reach such levels.

It was about whom you played for, what you played for and how you played that counted!

There are many arguments to both sides and many will suggest their pay packets determine the expectations for it is their job, but at what cost does it come?

These players were once children who had aspired to emulate former idols or at least stand alongside them but us fans then make comparisons and attempt to justify the best or the worst players based on the team’s performance on the weekend or the conclusion of a season.

It seems as though no team is allowed to have a bad year. If they do then the coach gets punted, then the players and before you know it the expectation dissipates and we are again left with nothing – until more success breeds more success that leads to expectation.

Perhaps these expectations are the decisive factor leading players to act out through constant indiscretions.

Perhaps deep down they really are asking for help, but it would seem asking for help always comes too late and is looked down upon regardless of the individuals circumstances.

Perhaps the Cronulla Sharks scenario is another manifestation in which club officials are misleading our future stars due to the constant expectation of winning at all costs?

I don’t possess the answers, I am just a passionate NRL supporter hurting like everyone else and wanting just footy and I’m sure the players all want the same too.

So just maybe as a collective group, we can realise this is just a game and win, lose or draw we are afforded with such a wonderful sport.

Maybe, just once, we can just enjoy it for what it is instead of heaping expectation that in-turn affects our teams and our prolonged support.

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