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Why do players leave NRL to play overseas?

Daniel Anderson NRL.com Sat, Jun 23, 2012 - 11:39 AM

Danny Buderus has returned to the Knights after a stint in the UK Super League. Copyright: NRL Photos

There are many players currently playing in the European Super League who still have the ability to play at a top level in the NRL. Why do they leave?

When I was at St Helens, Matt Gidley (current Football CEO of Newcastle Knights) left the NRL to ply his trade in England. Matt (and his family) were interested in experiencing a change of culture and lifestyle. It is well known that the crowds are smaller in number but noisy in nature. There are many songs sung at each game in both support of the home team and cheeky slights at the opposition. For example, when the home team is close to winning, you will hear “You’re not singing, You’re not singing anymore” being serenaded to the opposition fans.

Some players leave the NRL because they are effectively told to. No contract offer or furnace like scrutiny may tip the scales to cross the ditch and play in the Northern Hemisphere. Rugby League has no ‘soap opera’ status in the UK. Soccer is the primetime sport and dominates the media landscape. Currently the European Soccer(Football) Championships are taking place and with England in the quarter finals, rugby league is consigned to a 10cmx10cm column 9 pages from the back page of the newspapers. To play rugby league in a relaxed lifestyle, enjoy life, redeem yourself and if your team is successful, does it get any better?

Players are professionals and have a defined lifespan for their trade. Playing in the Super League can lengthen your career and it is still profitable. Given the NRL salary cap will be increased and the exchange rate is heavily in favour of Australia but financial opportunities in the Super League cannot be dismissed. Older players can still secure contracts in the UK and consider Steve Menzies is close to securing a contract to play again in 2013 in his 40th year.

Some players are interested in seeing the world and what better way to fulfil this ambition by playing their chosen sport and then travelling in the off season. Winter is very different in the UK and Europe and this experience can be used as a defining moment on whether you stay or go home. In the Super League Off Season or  time off, it is conceivable to jump on a plane and spend four days in Italy or Spain.

Whilst some of these reasons may seem petty or soft, each have their own reasons or combination thereof. Recently we have seen a trend occurring where NRL players leave for the UK only to return back to the NRL. Can we call it a recharge to the batteries to play Super League. Matt King, Ryan Hoffman and Danny Buderus have all trodden this path recently and it hasn’t seemed to have affected their abilities. Brett Finch and Thomas Leuluai are following this route in 2013.

It’s naïve to suggest that everything is better in the NRL. Players want to play in the NRL but in the end they want to play.

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