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Opinion

It's so much better to be an Amateur Joe

(Steven Paston – EMPICS/Getty Images)
Roar Pro
18th June, 2021
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We hear a lot about the superstars of world sport – about their fabulous wealth, beautiful wives, girlfriends, mistresses, luxury cars and COVID exceptions!

But what about the Amateur Joe?

The club player, the non-exceptional athlete, the guy working long hours, with sport at the end of the week their physical release?

Some of the funniest videos going viral are those of average sports people with their failings and occasional successes.

It is a good thing we do not give a toss as these are embarrassing moments. And do we care? Not in the slightest. Sport, to us, is to be enjoyed and have a laugh over.

Imagine playing sport for a living. No thanks.

The thought of playing golf for a living does not appeal.

To be famous, rich, and recognised worldwide for whacking a little white ball around a paddock? Give me nine holes at the Quamby Golf Course in Tasmania any time.

To go out with your son and play terribly, with occasional moments of brilliance, and have a laugh is what life is all about.

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Which reminds me of the first time I played golf with my father: he hit a good drive and my brothers and I very responsibly chased after the ball, picked it up and brought it back to my father, and said, “Here it is”.

To make a living from playing golf or any sport seems quite surreal.

Matsuyama wins The Masters

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Sure, the money would pay off a few bills, but working in a ‘real’ job and playing sport on the weekend is far more attractive. You may not agree but that’s okay.

Sport as a profession is fraught with many pitfalls and is not always the dream life it’s presented as.

Living the dream playing sport over a usually short period of time often ends acrimoniously. From the adoring crowds to wondering, “So, what am I going to do now?”

Because there are usually no other options, players are drawn back to the sport through coaching or media work. And we all know that a good player does not always make a good commentator – just look at Michael Clarke, for example, or Johnathan Thurston!

Where else but in amateur sport can you be playing golf and hit your girlfriend in the calf muscle with a thunderous drive? Well, maybe not so thunderous!

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Or be searching for your ball in long grass and the only thing you find is a snake. The camaraderie of playing with your workmates on Waiheke Island, New Zealand before work is a good memory.

Turning up one day in a massive downpour and deciding to play anyway. To go to work afterwards and relive some great shots is a bonding moment.

To try and drive your ball between two clumps of trees and being so psyched out. And why is hitting over water so hard?

Recently, with my son, I managed to put three balls in a small lake, before giving up and moving to the next hole.

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Golf and alcohol for the Amateur Joe go hand in hand. For some, the golfing ability gets worse, but I always found it got better. Being more relaxed may help.

One thing I have learnt about sport is that the more you care about winning for winning’s sake, the more likely you are to lose.

It is more important to work out why you want to win and distract your mind, win for another purpose apart from for yourself or team.

The Springboks, who won the World Cup in 2019, were playing for their supporters back home and not for egotistical reasons.

The Springboks pass through a massive crowd on their Rugby World Cup trophy tour

(Photo by Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

And can anyone explain why many golfers only win one major? Michael Campbell and Adam Scott being two examples.

Rugby is probably the most recent major sport to leave the amateur days behind and go professional.

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There is the old story of Craig Green, the All Blacks winger, who in 1987 was part of the first team to win the World Cup and the following Monday was back at work.

It is a common question: as a player, would you have preferred playing in the amateur days or live a professional career? Personally, I’d rather work during the week and leave rugby for the weekend.

In amateur sport, at least you can get totally hammered on a Friday night, vomit on the field when playing and then resume drinking after the game!

As an Amateur Joe there are usually only friends and family on the sidelines cheering you on, and if you were lucky, as I was, you had your parents along to watch the games.

I did once attempt a penalty from halfway and received some advice from my father: “Who do you think you are, Don Clarke?”

I missed.

In one team, we were often short of players and had to rope in some individual who often won the player of the match award.

I can remember playing in small communities where rugby was the highlight of the week, and confronting some of the biggest, angriest Maoris around!

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It was always a good idea to tackle them just as hard as they would tackle you. They respected you then. But after the match everything was forgotten and there were always a few laughs.

Joining the local rugby club was often a way to get to know people from the local community and in amateur days was the social hub. I have not played for a professional club, so cannot say if it was better or worse than an amateur one.

A professional career in rugby seems too rigid, compliant, and restrictive to an Amateur Joe.

To best sum up cricket with amateur versus professional cricket, is to imagine Steve Smith downing 50 odd beers from Sydney to London as David Boon did in the ’80s – it ain’t going to happen! These were more relaxed times back then. And many of them worked full-time.

Cricket is one of the great sports to play as an Amateur Joe.

I started up a community cricket club a few years ago and it was one of the best things I have done. The club was resurrected, players recruited, even a beer sponsor found and matches organised.

The community got right behind it and supported all games. Most matches were played in good spirits and the banter flowed freely. Players had their work but looked forward to the games immensely.

For the Amateur Joe, it was an opportunity to relive their glory days and pretend for a second that they were Jeff Thomson or Kane Williamson.

My father also started a social cricket team called the Geri-Hatricks, formerly made up of old fellas but younger ones, including myself, were recruited.

A keg of beer was always on hand, but some fiery cricket was also played.

I do remember once umpiring a game, as the players were asked to do, and giving my skipper not out when he had clearly nicked it. Well, you do not give your skipper out, do you?

Tennis is probably another game I would much rather play as an Amateur Joe rather than a professional. Hitting a hairy ball across a net to make a living? No thanks.

Is it more suited as a social sport? Socially, it can be a lot of fun with inter club competitions providing a competitive element. Males and females can mix socially more so than many other sports.

So, if you want to meet a future partner, join your local tennis club!

So, Amateur Joe or pro player, which do you prefer? Falcons or Ferraris?

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