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From images of NRL stars studying theology to shearing sheep, working as a hairdresser and driving a V8 supercar, prominent Sydney QC Mark Tedeschi has joined with the NRL tonight to showcase the diverse backgrounds of Rugby League players in a unique photographic exhibition.

Tedeschi’s exhibition, entitled ‘Onside with the NRL’, was officially opened at the State Library of NSW tonight and features 20 photographs of past and present NRL players.

Some of the striking images in the exhibition include the Raiders’ Joe Picker shearing a sheep; NSW VB Blues and Sharks captain Paul Gallen with his children; the Panthers’ Origin debutant Tim Grant in a V8 supercar; Junior Sa’u of the Knights working as a hairdresser cutting his own hair; Bulldog Corey Payne at Sydney University and the Roosters’ Sam Perrett on site working as a builder.

“I have chosen to show the many interests, jobs, hobbies and pastimes of NRL players to demonstrate how varied their activities are and how inaccurate the traditional stereotypes are of these men,” Mr Tedeschi said.

“I found the players to be delightful, warm people with a very developed sense of serving the community. It was a challenging and rewarding experience to photograph this group that normally I would have no contact with.”

The exhibition, initiated with the NRL by the Eva Breuer Art Dealer, will be on view to the public from June 23 to August 5, 2012.

ARL Commission Interim Chief Executive Officer, Mr Shane Mattiske, said: “This exhibition reminds us that there is an incredible depth to the people in Rugby League that is all too often overlooked.

“What our players do on the field is truly amazing and it is easy to forget that they are a diverse group of individuals … they are ordinary people who do extraordinary things.”


Artist’s Statement Mark Tedeschi comments on each photograph in his exhibition:

1.Braith Anasta (Roosters)
I made contact with Braith through his girlfriend, actress Jodi Gordon. We arranged to meet at his mother’s iconic restaurant at La Perouse, where I had heard he is involved helping out in the busy kitchen or serving customers. The restaurant was closed and not re-opening until the following day, so I decided to photograph him with his huge hunk of a husky dog at the beach below his mother’s restaurant. The result of the shoot was a depiction of the many facets of this charismatic first grade NRL player’s life that pull him in different directions, each making a claim on his very meagre free time – family, friends, dog, and of course a talented and most beautiful girlfriend.

2. Roy Asotasi (Rabbitohs)
Roy has an interest in business, in particular in the fashion industry. He is in the process of doing a business certificate course, which is hard to fit in around his role as captain of the South Sydney Rabbitohs team and other NRL commitments.

3. Mario Fenech (One Community Ambassador; formerly Rabbitohs)
Mario is another of those larger than life legends of the NRL who has a wide variety of aspects to his life. As well as supporting many charitable causes and appearing on The Footy Show, Mario has been responsible for attracting an enormous amount of sponsorship to the NRL and in particular The State of Origin. One of the sponsors is Harvey Norman, and when I photographed him Mario was returning their support by attending the re-opening of a store at Penrith. I was particularly impressed by the way Mario chatted so naturally and amiably with the public and encouraged them to pursue their dreams. I listened for about ten minutes while he patiently encouraged a young boy to pursue his dream of playing for Australia. Mario is immensely proud of his Maltese origins and is an ardent family man.

4. Brad Fittler (commentator/media personality, formerly Roosters)
Brad is one of those people who is often referred to as a living legend. Having had a magnificent career as a player and coach, he is now a presenter and commentator on TV, the internet and over mobile phones and the T-box. Many thousands of people each week listen to his analysis of the game and its players on NRL Daily. I was amazed at his knowledge and how imaginative and fluent he was in dissecting the fine points of the week’s events. I took this image in the NRL Daily studio from where he broadcasts. I love it because it shows him chal­lenging his other identity and having a good laugh at himself.

5. Paul Gallen (Sharks)
Paul has an awesome reputation as one of the greats in first grade NRL, and as a pretty tough player. It was apparent when we met that there was a ‘soft underbelly’ to the tough guy. What could be more poignant and touching than to photograph him reading to his young daughter who adores him, and he her. In the
photograph, Paul the NRL player is more dominant and puts himself firmly out there, but Paul the dad seems grounded, sedate and at ease.

6. Tim Grant (Panthers)
Tim is an aficionado of fast cars and regularly races them. I met him at the Eastern Creek raceway to take the photographs. It was the first time that I had been there. It was crowded with people – young and old – who were there for test rides or lessons in racing. It is a world of its own. Tim seemed as immersed and as familiar with this world as he is in the NRL world, and he seemed adept at crossing from one to the other with ease. Apart from images inside the car, I took some of him standing in the middle of the raceway shedding his racing outfit to reveal his NRL gear underneath. It seemed quite symbolic of how he comfortably fits into both
activities. This image shows the even balance between the two parts of Tim’s life. Although only one of them is in the driving seat, it is hard to tell which one is determining where they are going.

7. Dene Halatau (Bulldogs)
Dene is an Ambassador for the RSPCA, and we arranged to meet at the Animal Shelter at Yagoona. We were walking around looking for a suitable place to take some photos, when I noticed a family intently considering whether to take on a cute, small dog. The dog was doing its utmost to connect with the family, and the RSPCA volunteer was doing her best to convince the family that this little gem of a pet was the right fit for them. It was a touching scene, and I realised it would make a fabulous setting for me to photograph Dene. So, the RSPCA rep who was taking us around asked them if it was alright to include them in the portrait and they agreed. After a short while they almost forgot we were there, and I got some beautiful, natural shots.

8. Bronson Harrison (Raiders)
Bronson is interested in extending his involvement in business franchises, particularly in the food industry. I took this image at a very innovatively presented pizza shop in Canberra. He seemed interested in the business side of things, although he is aware of the need for hands-on experience in such a service industry. The reflections in the glass partition presented not only a barrier to customers but also to photography.

9.Tim and Johnny Mannah (Parramatta)
Both brothers, who play for Parramatta, had been invited to attend a service at the Hillsong Church at Baulkham Hills, as they are both very involved in their local church. I knew that Jonny Mannah had had a major health issue some years ago, and that he had recovered and was back in full swing playing for Parramatta. I went along to photograph them at the service which was more like a rock concert. I photographed the brothers together and the strong friendship and love between the two brothers was quite palpable. I was so sorry to hear soon after the shoot that Jonny has had a relapse of his illness.

10. Bryan Norrie (Storm)
I went to Melbourne especially to photograph Bryan Norrie. Like most first grade players, his time is at an absolute premium. On the one day per week that he is not playing or training, he is doing an apprenticeship as a lift electrician. We only had one hour before he was due to attend a training session, so we had to cut corners to get a meaningful shot. We met at the NRL premises at the AAMI Stadium where he trains, and thankfully there was a lift there where I could photograph him. It was an outdoor lift, with lots of glass and strong vertical lines created by the concrete structure around it, which highlighted his strength of purpose in pursuing a career as a player at such a high level while still looking to the future as an electrician.

11. and 12. Corey Payne (Bulldogs)
Corey is an amazing man who is devoting a considerable part of his life to encouraging young people from deprived backgrounds to finish their secondary education and go on to tertiary studies, including at University. He has a special connection with Sydney University where he did his bachelor degree and is now doing a masters degree in commerce. Through his Future Direction Network he gives motivational speeches that have changed young people’s lives. I particularly liked two of the photos of Corey, and because I couldn’t chose
between them I have included both. The one in the Quadrangle of Sydney Uni stresses his place at theinstitution where he has studied. The one in the Graffiti Tunnel is more subtle. It shows the flow of students armed with their books and bags going about their everyday lives, with the NRL player unexpectedly emerging from a side doorway a bit startled, as though he has come from a different world, but with the prospect of joining the flow. The other Corey is totally at home going with the flow of students.

13. David Peachey (One Community Ambassador, formerly Rabbitohs and Sharks)
David has worked with the Royal Far West organisation, which cares for the health, medical and educational needs of country kids at their premises in Manly. I was struck by how well David related to the kids, and how they responded to him. The families were impressed too. One boy, who is in the back of the photo near to him, seemed sad and isolated and was reluctant to talk to anyone, so David made a special effort to reach out to him and eventually managed to get through to him. I was moved by how sensitively and expertly David spoke to him.

14. Sam Perrett (Roosters)
As well as being a prominent NRL player, Sam often works as a builder, and he has big plans for his own building company. This image was taken on a building site with some of the people that Sam works with. The frame of the building signified for me the basic structure that Sam is already constructing around his life to accommodate him for when he is no longer a first grade NRL player. Although Sam the NRL player is more prominent and noticeable in the image, Sam the builder is very much at ease and fits comfortably into the team effort of constructing the building.

15. Joe Picker (Raiders)
I met Joe at his friend’s farm near Crookwell about forty minutes from Canberra. Joe is still very much a country boy, and he has been shearing sheep since he was about fifteen. I was amazed at how effortlessly he sheared the sheep without cutting them with the very sharp shears. This image shows how he successfully lives in both the world of pastoral pursuits and the world of first grade NRL. While he seems to keep his feet firmly grounded in both aspects of his life, Joe the NRL player seems to view Joe the shearer with some bemusement, but the shearer is definitely a very determined Joe.

16. Frank Puletua (formerly Panthers)
Frank is a delightful man with a gentleness about him that one would not normally associate with a former first grade NRL player. Frank works as an art curator at the Casula Powerhouse, a regional art museum in south-western Sydney that attracts a lot of attention in the art world of Sydney and in the local community. Amongst other things, Frank curates sport displays at the museum and assists in educational activities. Frank set his sights on a career in the art world many years ago, while he was still an NRL player, by achieving a degree in fine arts and then another in design. He is also a practising artist, using many varied media to express his talents. On the day that I was at the Powerhouse, he was participating in a music performance workshop for some young musicians from the local area. I photographed him in the section of the Powerhouse that is devoted to encouraging children to make their own art.

17. Mitch Rein (Dragons)
Mitch, who I met at North Beach, Wollongong, told me about his passion for surfing and how it is meditative for him. I took some photos of him with his board under the shark bell but when I saw the shower I knew that this would be a great setting. I was fascinated by its sculptural qualities and the sweeping lines that seemed to provide a natural frame for the two different images of him. I named the image ‘Doppelhanger’ – which is a play on words. ‘Doppelgänger’ is originally a German word meaning a paranormal double of a living person. Mitch the NRL player was hanging from the shower doing a chin-up, and in surfing language one talks of ‘hang five’, I thought that it was the perfect name for the image. On later reflection, I thought that it could have been the title for the whole series, because each of my subjects has been portrayed in two different realities of their lives that rarely, if ever, meet.

18. Junior Sa’u (Knights)
Junior is pursuing a career as a hairdresser. This shoot at a Newcastle hairdresser, provided some tricky technical difficulties to line up the scissors in his hands with his head when he was on the barber’s seat. Clearly Junior has the footwork to do both his activities equally well. The mixed lighting from fluoro and tungsten lights, natural light from outside, and the mirrors all combined to add to the challenge. But Junior was a very co-operative subject. We were both amused that some customers might walk in and see him cutting an imaginary person’s hair and this comical element added to the movement and sense of fun in the resultant portrait.

19. David Simmons (Panthers)
David is a deep thinker who has taken his quest for knowledge and spiritual development one step further by studying theology at Moore College. I took this photo at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in the city where David was taking classes in ancient Greek, in order to be able to read scriptural texts in the original language. David the NRL player is clearly challenging David the student to do great things.

20. David Williams (Sea Eagles)
David is known as ‘Wolfman’ for obvious reasons. He is in the final stages of a design degree at Enmore TAFE, which is one of the best courses in this area in Australia. David is also a keen guitarist.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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