Can we please stop comparing rookies to NRL legends?

Keith Sheldon Roar Guru

By , Keith Sheldon is a Roar Guru

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    I am sick of hearing commentators, journalists and fans comparing new talents to current and recently retired legends.

    It is one of the most annoying things about modern rugby league. In my worst nightmares, I still see Latrell Mitchell scoring his first try, in Round 2 of 2016, and Gary Belcher bleating “Who does this remind you of? Greg Inglis!”

    I am sick of debuting fullbacks being compared to Inglis, I am sick of new halves being compared to Andrew Johns, and I am sick of fresh-faced dummy-halves being compared to Cameron Smith.

    I understand the purpose is to build hype for new guys and make people excited to see them play, but it is overused and counterproductive.

    It puts huge amounts of pressure on these youngsters. Comparing someone that has played 30 minutes of first grade to a player who has represented Australia countless times hypes them up far too much.

    Also, it would have to just feel weird. Imagine if you got a job as a bartender, and on your first shift customers were saying, “Oh wow, you are the greatest bartender I have seen, you will become a billionaire’s private bartender in a few years.” It would be weird and put impossibly high expectations on you, especially if in a few years you were still working the same job, with the same customers coming in, now wondering why you are still at the same place.

    And what happens if these players don’t kick on? What happens when they turn out to be a flash in the pan, or just a serviceable first grader? Public opinion turns on them faster than a politician turns on his election promises.

    For example, look at Luke Brooks. He had an impressive debut and for years he was hyped as the next Andrew Johns. But a few years down the track, he hasn’t developed and public opinion is sour on him. Not through any fault of his own, he is a bog-standard half at the moment, and people are disappointed because they expected the world due to whom he was compared.

    Luke Brooks argues about having to leave the field with concussion

    Not only that, it cheapens these legends’ legacy. Imagine being Inglis, a rare talent who can be just unstoppable with a perfect mix of power and speed. Now, imagine if one day someone who played well for a season in the under 20s was being compared to you. It seems to say ‘You are good, but this random young guy can replace you’. Sometimes talents like this are irreplaceable.

    My main problem if that these comparisons are so common. I wouldn’t mind if Matt Moylan was called ‘Lockyer-esque’ in 2014, as he set up a try every couple of rounds. But I don’t want to hear the comparisons to Darren Lockyer every time the Panthers skipper touches the damn ball, like we have experienced in the past.

    Also, it is applied to far too many players. Name a spine player that has had a good debut season who hasn’t been compared to a former player. I legitimately cannot think of one. Tom Trbojevic has been compared to Brett Stewart, Nathan Cleary to Johnathan Thurston, Jayden Brailey to Michael Ennis, and the list goes on and on.

    Weirdly, we don’t get the legend comparisons for many non-spine players.

    Finally, it actually takes away from what the young guys are currently doing. Take the Latrell Mitchell debut try, where, from close to the line, he shrugged off a few Canberra players to score. The commentators were talking more about Inglis than about the kid who actually scored the try.

    Instead of talking about how strong he must be to shake off those defenders, they spent minutes talking about someone else.

    This constant comparison to legends needs to stop. It hurts both the rookies that are being given this comparison and the careers of the legends themselves.

    Latrell Mitchell isn’t the next Greg Inglis, he is the next Latrell Mitchell.

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