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So perfectly imperfect you just can't look away - if not for the mobile phones

Opinion

If only our young rugby league stars had the wisdom of those players about to retire – our winters would be much less interesting, writes Michael Blucher

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Just think, one more match – the big one – and it’s all over for another year.

Rugby League – or rugga—ba-league as boss man Pete calls it – is the gift that keeps giving.

From late February through to early October, league fans cling onto the wild roller coaster as it careers unchecked though the chilly winter months, the ups and downs, the unexpended sharp bends hurling us this way and that, serving up excitement, glee, dismay and abhorrence in almost equal doses.

For every flash of on-field brilliance, there seems to be a corresponding smudge mark of off-field ill-discipline, the ensuing drama distracting us from the main game.

But that’s what makes the NRL such compelling viewing – a gladiatorial free for all that we almost have to watch yet frequently wonder. …’what the hell were they thinking?”

The game is so imperfect, it’s perfect. The lovers and haters of league – and everybody in-between can all pick what they want to put on their plate, And feast on it through the winter.

I’m guessing that rugby league, given the game’s proud working class roots, has always been the same heady mix of on-field brilliance and off-field fallibility.

The humble origins of many of the NRL’s biggest names, and the hurdles they’ve overcome, have been well documented, and are unquestionably inspirational.

But the reality remains, their lives away from the game still can’t cope with the scrutiny that comes with being a professional athlete in 2021.

Our ever vigilant army of mobile phone carrying moral custodians guarantee that we see and hear practically everything they do and say after hours.

At times, even what they don’t do gets posted on social media.

There’s no need to relive the long list of 2021 indiscretions, the March to September moments that lit up the mobile phones of key NRL officials, usually in the early hours of the morning.

The last week alone has served up enough fodder for discussion, with two of the games best and brightest – most marketable – “caught on video”, suspiciously close to piles of mysterious white powder.

Another was arrested with possession of the same substance on the Gold Coast, the police only stumbling on the powdery booty after he’d failed to follow a direction to “move on”.

Neither of these incidents, nor countless others that have made headlines make these blokes bad people. They’re just guilty of poor decisions, of doing dumb stuff. On occasions, really dumb stuff. Hopefully as a collective, they will learn and amend, but more realistically, they’ll be repeat offenders.

Before we judge, however, we should remember where many have come from – the NRL playing ranks has more than its fair share of faulty moral compasses.

As an aside, should we really be surprised that our elite athletes are dabbling in recreational drugs, when practically every strata of society – including our most prestigious professions – is rife with much the same?

Hell no.

The only significant difference is that most professionals have the presence of mind not to film themselves while they are partaking.

The NRL is made up almost exclusively of young, intensively competitive males whose brains are far from fully formed, and unlikely to be until the age of 30, around the time they are contemplating retirement.

At that point, the penny usually drops. They finally “get it”, just as they are gracefully departing the stage, and handing over to the next batch of brash young things.

Kids who just like them when they were younger, think they’re invincible.

That’s how the rugbba-leaggue cycle spins. How the professional football cycle spins, season after season, afer season.

And thank goodness it does.

How bland and boring would our winters be, if we didn’t have imperfect athtletes to entertain us, on and off the field?

On a different note…. a good friend bought two tickets in a private suite in the western stand, fully catered with all the food and drink you can consume from 3pm until 9. Unfortunately he didn’t realise the NRL final was the same day as his wedding, so he can’t go.

If anybody is interested, it’s at St Pauls Catholic Church at Everton Park. Her name is Catherine.

Boom, boom.

May the best team win on Sunday. And may there not be fights among those jostling to get in to watch.

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