Sport

Don't forget who butters your bread!

Origin players need to be reminded who is buttering their bread. They cannot make a living from Origin alone.
Origin players need to be reminded who is buttering their bread. They cannot make a living from Origin alone. Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

NO DOUBT rugby league fans struggling to make ends meet on the median Australian annual earnings - $54,750 my research tells me - are somewhat mystified that State of Origin players are seeking almost that amount per game.

Okay, so Origin is one of the foremost sporting events in Australia, and undisputedly the most-watched in NSW and Queensland. The record TV ratings from Origin I, and the ensuing barrage of publicity, have done nothing to suggest otherwise.

We are told the Origin series generates $30 million and we also know that Victoria and New Zealand are prepared to offer millions to host games annually. It does seem a little stingy then that the players - the entertainers - share only 6% of the purse.

We understand elite athletes - footballers in particular - have a short-term earning capacity. They are entitled to be paid commensurate with the popularity and drawing power of their sport.

I can also appreciate David Gallop and the NRL wanting to retain the largest slice of the Origin pie. Without grassroots footy there is no Origin, so eventually the wheel stops turning.

But it's the clubs who supply the players who should be throwing up their "what about us" hands. They suffer the most pain and distraction from Origin, and for very little gain.

Manly, for instance, has lost powerhouse Tony Williams for six weeks after he was injured in game one. And although it was a decision by the coach and not injury-related, three gun Broncos watched from the sideline last Friday night - recovering from Origin - as their team mates were smashed by the Storm.

Last year Blues coach Ricky Stuart even had the audacity to advocate players stand down from the round prior to Origin III to protect them from possible injury. Without doubt Origin has become the tail that wags the NRL dog.

Share the fattening purse more evenly by all means, but the players need to be reminded who is buttering their bread. They cannot make a living from Origin alone.

Weight for it

SKIN-tight jerseys worn by players these days do not flatter the physique of all footballers. In fact in the case of some - like Jamal Idris - they reveal much more than club dieticians would prefer.

Coach John Cartwright says he isn't concerned that Idris is 10kg overweight, but it is hardly the image a supposed elite athlete should project - particularly one being paid $500,000 a season and who has a specific appeal to kids. Chris Sandow, another on big money to swap clubs this year, also looks a tad beefy in his tight Parramatta shirt.

But then some blokes simply have an unfortunate build. Broncos skipper Sam Thaiday is hardly male-model material, yet has no problem playing 80 minutes, and tubby George Rose is a cult figure at Manly, as is Sam Kasiano at the Bulldogs.

Big Dave Taylor is an interesting specimen. The Rabbitohs second-rower constantly had weight issues during his four seasons with the Broncos and a falling out with former coach Ivan Henjak was weighty enough to eventually lead to his departure. Now, obviously comfortable in his 125kg body, Taylor is the most destructive forward in the NRL. Maybe the Titans have taken note.

Great spotting

MAYBE it's my imagination, but James Tamou has seemingly grown another leg since the Kiwi/Aussie controversy six weeks ago. He was good in the Anzac Test, terrific in the Origin and sensational last Sunday against the Tigers.

His effort to run down Benji Marshall - admittedly in cover defence - is one of the most extraordinary feats I have seen in a long while. Tamou is either a sprinter in a prop's body or Benji has lost a yard or two.

In convincing Tamou - if that's what he did - to denounce his Kiwi heritage and become a cockroach, Ricky Stuart pulled a genuine rabbit from his hat.

Topics:  nrl, rugby league, state of origin


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