Let us all give thanks. That should be the attitude as rugby league enjoys its hottest summer in 111 winters.
From Jarryd Hayne and the Canterbury Mad Monday through to Dylan Napa, a succession of champions have been making the big game bigger and putting rugby league on the front and back pages – where it belongs – and dominating the media.
The hits just keep on coming.
AFL, cricket, football, rugby, tennis and basketball – they’ve struggled to stay in the game in the face of such an onslaught.
And just when you think, ‘they can’t keep this up’, new champions step forward and make an impact.
It’s been relentless, it’s been sensational and, as the pre-season approaches, the only danger is whether they’ve peaked too early.
Regardless, rugby league has been the real winner in this summer to beat all summers; a time of deadset freaks, legends and worldbeaters.
There is an opposing position, however.
It would include the view that if you have to give adults lectures on the respectful treatment of women, you’ve lost.
It would say that if you want quiet summers (and winters) absent of atrocities and with positive images, then you need a new game plan.
There are no infallible innovations but there are changes that would make an impact.
Players are now signed virtually from the cradle. Many potential stars are contracted to clubs before they leave high school.
Make it mandatory that players must be 18 before clubs can sign them.
Make it mandatory that prospective recruits must pass elementary English and maths tests before they can be signed.
Fail, and they come back in a year.
That way, schools won’t be hoovering up footballers and waiving fees, and students won’t be walking around boasting they’re only at school to play football.
It’s time for the NRL to get serious about antics like Napa’s. (Photo by Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images)
Reinforce the approach by discontinuing all elite schoolboy competitions. Restrict matches to school zones with a once-a-season NSW v Queensland schoolboy game.
NRL clubs already compete in elite junior competitions, always have.
Most importantly, NRL players must work at least one day a week, at least until they’re 21. They can clean toilets, sweep floors, wash dishes, mow lawns, dig ditches – anything that will put them in touch with life as it lived by the ordinary fan.
That way, player managers mightn’t be hit with trivial complaints about cars breaking down, needing a new pair of boots or a new toothbrush.
Scrap Mickey Mouse courses and allow time off for genuine tertiary-and-trade study for those who need it.
Along the way, those with dreams might realise there is a life after football to prepare for. Before that point is reached, for every 100 who try, one hits the big time, and preferably without the summer headlines.
It’s been said many times and it can be restated; a majority of NRL footballers are solid citizens living quiet lives away from the summer headlines, but the perception is the reality.
If the NRL wants to alter the perception it must alter the game plan, but that’s as likely as Parramatta winning this year’s premiership, not when clubs have games to be won and money to be made.
One abiding question remains from the summer.
Jarryd Hayne got a taxi from the Central Coast to Newcastle, had it wait 20 minutes and then caught it back to Sydney.
Since that would have cost a squillion, was Hayne an Arab oil sheikh in a former life?
Article written by user ‘John’