ABC Grandstand commentator Daniel Anderson is writing all year for NRL.com about the trends and issues in the game.
Does the NRL competition pressure clubs to discard players when they reach 30 years of age?
I have been fortunate to watch Danny Buderus at the Newcastle Knights this year showing the guile and competitive streak that all players would love to have. When signed by Wayne Bennett, Danny suggested that he would probably play about 60 minutes a week and was desperate to play for his hometown team again after playing three years at Leeds in the European Super League.
Fast forward to Round 7 and Danny Buderus is the best performed hooker eligible for NSW, at age 34. In fact, Newcastle look lost when he isn’t on the field.
Braith Anasta is the current captain of the Sydney Roosters. In September 2010, he was named Dally M Captain of the Year. Last week he was signed by the Wests Tigers.
Braith is 30 years young, a well credentialed NRL player, an accomplished goal kicker, and rarely misses a game, but was let go by the Sydney Roosters. The Roosters have the right to sign James Maloney and look for a younger, faster combination in the halves with Mitchell Pearce, but Braith Anasta is not washed up. He is only 30.
I was lucky to coach Paul Anderson (no relation) at St Helens. He was 36 years old, weighed 125kg and stood 6’5”, but had the hands of a 5/8 when passing a short ball. ‘Baloo’ (nicknamed after the big bear in The Jungle Book) had an ‘Indian Summer’ at Saints. He is one of the most gifted front rowers I have ever coached, but at 36 years old, he knew what worked for him and what didn’t. His job was made a little easier by some team preferences (if he was in a tackle, he never had to go back the 10m, he was a guaranteed marker), but Baloo knew his career was finishing so his last season rivalled his best as he played every game like it was his last.
‘Old Hardheads’ is a nickname I like to give ‘vintage’ players. These old hardheads are invaluable at peer coaching, they understand that their chosen profession is a sport, and they provide a calming influence when called for and a kick up the backside to their team mates when required. Rarely do they shy away from accepting adversity and readily acknowledge how much more they should be contributing when questioned by the media.
Ask Jarrod Mullen or the Newcastle forwards about the service they are receiving from Danny Buderus during the match; speak to James Graham of the Canterbury Bulldogs about the influence of Paul ‘Baloo’ Anderson on his role as a front rower whilst establishing himself in the top grade; and ask Anthony Minichiello at the Sydney Roosters about the qualities of Braith Anasta.
The unfortunate and sometimes cruel nature of a collision sport is shown when players have to retire before they are due. Dean Young is widely acknowledged as a stand up, genuine, tough rugby league player and superb leader, but if your body cannot deliver, a difficult decision rises up in front of you.
I have seen a few players having to make the same decision as Dean Young and while I cannot know what it feels like, I congratulate him on putting his next 50 years of living in front of a couple of extra years of playing. Being able to run and play with your kids will be worth the disappointment of an earlier than expected retirement.