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Sport Gal: Ugly NRL reality players have missed

07:50  06 april  2020
07:50  06 april  2020 Source:   wwos.nine.com.au

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Paul Gallen looking at the camera: Former Sharks captain Paul Gallen. © AAP Former Sharks captain Paul Gallen. The longest Kangaroos tour I went on was eight weeks, back in 2013 for the Rugby League World Cup.

By the fifth week, some blokes had had enough. And that was when we were touring some of the great cities of the world, like London and Manchester.

You could walk out and go to cafes, be among people other than your football team, enjoy new things and experiences.

Even then, blokes were missing home and family so much that they'd had enough, just halfway through.

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Ugly is a tale of ordinary lives involved in extraordinary circumstances. It starts out with a missing child followed by sequences that will make you utterly hate some characters initially. But as the movie unfolds and characters develop on screen, opinions on most of the characters will gradually change.

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So consider the sacrifice that players could be asked to make now, to get the NRL back on the field. No home, no family, for who knows how long.

If we lock players away in isolated communities for three or four months, maybe more, do you expect them just to be normal human beings coming out the other side? It's a big question mark.

Yet right now, I know they want to do it. There are two reasons.

One, they need to earn money to feed their families and pay the bills.

Two, they've got a competitive streak and simply want to play.

But I don't think they've thought past the first month.

They'll walk on to a football field and train. Walk into the gym to do weights. Then go back to a room and stay there. They will see the same 17 or 18 people every single day; and none will be their family.

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Many of us are living something similar right now by staying at home. But that's your family and your castle. You can walk out and mow your lawn, or tidy up your garden. You can still go and grab a takeaway coffee or burger in your local community.

It's different when you're stuck in a compound. Nothing that's yours, just you and the same faces every day.

I tell you what, you'd quickly find out which teammates don't really like each other!

If these guys can get it done, getting themselves and the game paid, I take my hat off to them. What a sacrifice to make, both personally and for rugby league.

Will the NRL really still ask them to take a pay cut in these circumstances? Shouldn't the players get a bigger slice of the salvaged broadcast revenue for putting themselves through something like this?

An NRL squad has 30 players, meaning 30 different personalities. Some guys could handle this plan. Some couldn't and you could hardly blame them.

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a large body of water: The Tangalooma area of Moreton Island was proposed as an isolated NRL community. © Nine The Tangalooma area of Moreton Island was proposed as an isolated NRL community.

But that's not the only obstacle that I can see. The other hurdle is financial and it could impact those same players who are being asked to make such a big sacrifice, having already agreed to a 75 per cent pay cut while games are off.

I think the players think they're just going to get paid as normal if footy resumes. I'd love for that to happen, if not with bigger wages ... but I can't see how that happens.

What they may not have considered is, who foots the bill for this big isolation plan?

When I played for Cronulla, if we were playing Brisbane on a Friday night, we'd go up and stay Thursday night, play Friday and come straight home the following day.

The NRL paid for 18 or 19 players to travel, plus maybe 10 staff. The Sharks didn't have a particularly big staff - and they still took a lot more people than that, who they had to pay for out of their own pocket.

Clubs decided what they could and couldn't afford. Maybe bigger clubs would travel on a Wednesday for a Friday game, spend two nights beforehand in Brisbane. Smaller clubs couldn't.

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So, who's footing the bill for 20 or more players, plus all the club staff you might need, to go and live in one of these isolated compounds for possibly months on end?

The NRL's got no money by this stage. They're spending all their money on paying the players for the next couple of months, then they're out.

Perhaps they go to the banks to get a line of credit, but the NRL's got no assets to borrow against. How do they secure a major loan?

Or are the clubs meant to pay for it? Plenty couldn't afford it, even before the current circumstances where many are worried about going broke.

Will the government pay for it? Who knows, but they've got plenty of bigger concerns right now.

Everyone wants our game back on the field, but there are plenty of big questions to be answered in coming months.

a man wearing a suit and tie: ARLC chairman Peter V'landys and NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg after the NRL shut down. © AAP ARLC chairman Peter V'landys and NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg after the NRL shut down.

STATE OF ORIGIN PERFECT AS IT IS

The simplicity of State of Origin is what makes it great.

The best players from NSW and Queensland. Best of three games. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

But in these strange times, we've seen plenty of ideas for possible changes to Origin this season. Here are my thoughts on them.

ORIGIN TO START THE SEASON

I don't like this one at all. While all options should be on the table, I'd be knocking this one on the head immediately.

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First of all, how do you pick the teams? While up to 90 per cent of the team may be locked in, there'd be three or four players who are far from guaranteed.

Bolters are one of the great things about Origin; they come around every year. Someone comes in and destroys that early part of the season, is absolutely killing it, and deserves a spot.

I've then heard the argument for 30-man rosters. No. Can't happen.

And I can't get my head around Origin being played with no fans. That's just not what it was designed for.

Without that incredible atmosphere, Origin just wouldn't be the same. That's a huge part of what makes it special.

I think you just keep Origin in your back pocket and aim to play it mid-way through the season, whatever that may look like. If games resume in July, perhaps Origin fits in during August-September and there's some chance of having fans. We just don't know.

Origin is a massive cash cow for rugby league. While broadcast rights are one thing, the ticketing and corporate revenues are also huge. We're talking millions of dollars that just won't be there with no fans.

If you get to near the end of the season and still can't have fans, at least you've had proper time to evaluate the players and select the teams properly.

The other major factor is how hard it would be on the players - and potentially dangerous.

I've discussed in a previous column the dangers of restarting football without proper training. I reckon you need a month to prepare, once we have a layoff beyond eight weeks.

The high-speed running you have to do to get back to game speed, the amount of contact you need to get used to the hits in a game, it just doesn't happen in a week or two. Without it, you're seriously exposed to injuries.

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That's just for NRL footy, let alone an Origin game; the quickest, toughest football there is.

a man standing next to a football ball: James Tedesco after scoring NSW's winning try in Origin III last season. © Getty James Tedesco after scoring NSW's winning try in Origin III last season.

AN EXTENDED ORIGIN SERIES, IF THERE'S NO NRL

The main problem with this is, why would there be Origin if the NRL can't be played?

Maybe if we get to November, December and there's still no football been played, perhaps you look at this just to get some games on the field, if it's somehow possible with the health restrictions.

But can you count it as a genuine Origin series, with no games played leading up to it and a different format? I'd have to think not.

a man swimming in the water: Tom Trbojevic celebrates one of his three tries in Origin II last year. © AAP Tom Trbojevic celebrates one of his three tries in Origin II last year.

LOOSENING PLAYER ELIGIBILITY RULES

No. Origin is Origin, and we've already discussed this with guys like Sonny Bill Williams.

Jason Taumalolo's also been spoken about previously and perhaps he could have played for Queensland had he chosen that way when he first came to Australia.

State of Origin's so tribal. It's NSW and Queensland. That's that.

We know what it was built on; decades upon decades of NSW smashing Queensland, while Queenslanders who wanted to play in the NSW Rugby League competition were forced to play for the Blues.

Finally, Arthur Beetson and company got a team together that could play for the Maroons against the Blues, and the series began with club teammates bashing the crap out of each other.

Everyone who plays State of Origin is reminded of that. They are reminded how far back it runs and what it means to us all.

Now, we've had guys like James Tedesco grow up watching Queensland dominate, winning 11 series in 12 years, and the situations are almost reversed. The NSW boys saw how dominant the Maroons were, wanted to take revenge and now they've won two series in a row.

How can you bring internationals in, even if they're great players like Taumalolo and John Bateman, who don't know and understand what Origin is?

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It doesn't add up for me.

a close up of a man with a football ball: Jason Taumalolo, playing for Tonga. © Getty Jason Taumalolo, playing for Tonga.

A SERIES INCLUDING NZ AND PACIFIC ISLAND TEAMS

That's not an Origin series. But I like these types of ideas, I really do, especially in the current circumstances.

If it gets past the cut-off date to bring the NRL back, past September 1 but things suddenly clear up around October, ideas like this could be good to get some revenue back in the game.

I wouldn't mind seeing something like that at all. Maybe you could even get an English team; the Super League isn't playing right now either.

Playing half a dozen games through October and November to give people something back after a trying year with no footy ... I'm not against that at all.

But it's not an Origin series. That can only be NSW vs Queensland.

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A solution found for the salaries of L1 players .
© Provided by Sports.fr Philippe Piat The working group set up by the LFP and the UNFP agreed on a reduction in salaries during the crisis caused by the coronavirus. A new response to the financial crisis caused by the cessation of competitions due to the coronavirus pandemic is about to be found in Ligue 1.

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