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In Touch: Get on with the game

Leila McKinnon NRL.com Tue, Apr 17, 2012 - 9:40 AM

Leila McKinnon calls for Rugby League to harden up, like the 'good old days'. Copyright: NRL Photos

Even if you spent a hot summer night at a campsite full of poms and mozzies in the middle of an Aerogard shortage, you would not hear more whinging than we’ve heard in the NRL this week.

Depending on whom you believe, Danny Buderus is too old, too deserving of respect, or too injured to play City-Country, despite being selected as Country’s captain.

Fans are not impressed, voting Buderus out of a Blues jersey on News Ltd websites, and sending this tweet from @FireUpOnFBI around the twitterverse dozens of times:

“Danny Buderus rushed to hospital, suffering lack of interest”

The Roosters gave their gleeful critics good reason to call them Bondi latte sippers when they couldn’t perform in Darwin because it was too hot, and embarrassingly even retired to a cool room at half time.

Geoff Toovey’s Sea Eagles are apparently wilting under the demands of backing up after five days. It’s just nooooot faaaiiir that the Broncos get all the Friday night games.

In Round 6 Des Hasler’s lot got FIVE more penalties than the Rabbitohs, setting off one of those curt but intense sulks that always enliven a post-match press conference.

"I cannot understand a 7-2 penalty count. 7-2 is not right," Hasler said.

Of course it’s partly because referees are PICKING ON poor pure Michael Ennis.

And, almost laughably, Wayne Bennett’s not happy that a team of his is finally playing against sides that are more boring and defence-oriented than they are.

Thank goodness Origin is just around the corner. When state takes on state and mate clashes with mate, all that regular season whining and fragility miraculously disappears, revealing the return of the hard men of Australian sport.

The Nine Network’s news icon Peter Harvey remembers a time when even the Chooks used to hang tough. As a boy he didn’t attend fan days, he simply watched his heroes work:

“The garbage trucks used to come along Ocean Street where we lived in the 50s. One guy standing on the piles of garbage in the open truck, other guys running alongside throwing the FULL bins up to him - he'd empty the garbage out, stamp it down and then chuck the bins back down.

“Sounds amazing doesn't it - but it was a different, harder and very unsanitary world. Everyone knew the garbos and knew they played for Easts - no one called them Roosters back then! It was certainly like that in the 50s and I think it probably didn’t change until sometime in the 60s.”

Wollongong players spent their working hours as coal miners or steel workers; I can’t imagine they took breaks in a specially cooled room either.

Of course it’s much better that players are now trained by experts, rather than by throwing bins weighed down with their fans’ garbage.

And they deserve to be well paid for the entertainment they provide sometimes at the expense of their physical wellbeing.

But let’s not forget that this is a tough game, and modern players are standing on the shoulders of an historical army of warriors.

Warriors don’t even notice when life isn’t fair. They know that, on occasion, the odds are stacked against them. Conditions are not always perfect. But a champion is someone who grits his or her teeth, reaches deep inside, and wins anyway.

When World Heavyweight Champion Jack Dempsey defended his title for the fifth time in 1923, he didn’t whinge when he was knocked down for the second time, flying through the ropes and landing on a reporter’s typewriter. He just got back in the ring and won. He later put it simply when he said, “A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.”

Perhaps our NRL boys can take heart from soccer champ George Best’s wisest words: “Pain is temporary, glory lasts forever!”

But my favourite inspirational quote, which is particularly apt for our bin-wielding Chooks, comes from Superbowl winning NFL coach John Madden: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of the NRL.