Dirty June ThirtyImagine if your employer texted you this evening and told you not to come in tomorrow; they’ve sold you. To another company. In another city. You start next week. No, you can’t bring your cat. You might be so unhappy in your present state of malaise that you welcome it, but for most it would cause some alarm, and rightfully so. Yet for professional sportspeople this is now very much their reality.
In Australia it is admittedly not quite as bad as in other countries, but with the June 30 transfer deadline looming like some mean-spirited formal date who you’ve put off asking in the hope you can find someone better (you won’t), a lot of rugby league players must be wondering where they’ll be living next year, if not next week.
Once this sort of perilous situation was reserved for fringe players who were probably just happy to have a contract, but as recent years have proven, not even the stars are safe. Indeed, in the English Premier League star players are treated like prized pigs – groomed to reach their peak and then sold off before they break a hoof and lose value. It doesn’t matter if it weakens the team; think about the bullion!
Fringe soccer players have it even worse than their rugby league counterparts. They get passed around like a joint at a frat party and by the end of their careers must be so burnt out that they can’t possibly know which end of them is up. Where is home? Wherever the hell I can get a goddamn drink!
At least rugby league players appear to have some sort of say in where they go. Chances are they’ll end up in the same city or, at worst, just down the highway. There is little risk they’ll end up playing third division in Iceland, but given the Burgess brothers’ recent form they ought to be wary.
It brings up a serious question of loyalty, though. Is loyalty dead? In the sporting and professional world, at least, I think it is. Fans often bemoan a player leaving the club for a bigger pay cheque. We accuse them of being greedy, turning their backs on those who nurtured them for a bigger house and a bit of spare coin. But loyalty is a two-way street – or at least it should be – and I see very few sporting clubs or major corporations showing much loyalty to anyone – underperform and you’re out on your arse; excel and you might just get sent to market to become a plaything for a slightly mad heir with oil money.
So as the June 30 deadline looms for our NRL players, it also looms for a bunch of stressed out bean counters, fiddling away with their abacuses of destiny, deciding who stays and who goes. I hope all you footy stars have been nice to the folk in the accounts department. They’re a little odd, I know, but they are more powerful than you think.