DISCORD 2013: Edition Nine

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD

AND so to Ben (nee Benji) Barba.

For the last two months, untold amounts of newsprint has been given over to torturous tales of pre-season army camps , sand hills and training sessions in the scorching sun.

“I felt like giving up,” our heroes have been quoted as saying. “I pushed myself to the edge. I questioned my decision to join (insert name of club).”

But when Ben Barba told a trainer in Goulburn last weekend “I don’t want to play footy anymore”, it was a completely different thing. Barba has been having troubles off the field, as we all well know, and has been given time by his club to address these.

But we all go into a very conventional way of thinking when these things happen, don’t we? Once he gets his life in order, we assume, Ben Barba will be back.

It is a given in our society that if you are good at something, if you win acclaim for your abilities, and you are paid a lot of money for it, you will do it for as long as you can.

Why does it have to be like that? Discord would submit that this is only the norm because people accumulate responsibilities and pressures when they are successful and are locked into doing what got them there, usually by financial factors.

I know I have written here before about our sport fawning over Sonny Bill Williams and Israel Folau and how it shows a lack of self respect on our part.

But that is no indictment on those players’ ambitions, even if the way SBW pursued his was initially offensive. In fact, I would contest that the most satisfying way for anyone to negotiate a working life is to become exceptional at something, quit, do something completely different, and repeat until retirement or death.

More of us would do that without the straps of responsibility digging into our shoulders, to paraphrase the character Ryan Bingham in Up In The Air.

If you are young, well paid, intelligent, and beholden to no-one then there is nothing wrong with deciding you want to do something else even when the rest of the world wants you to stay where you are. To quote a lyric written by Warriors fan Jon Toogood: “When you go against the grain, do you know how beautiful you are?”.

So beyond all the homilies and well-intentioned reassurance, we should afford Ben Barba the ultimate “space”, “compassion” and “freedom”.

The freedom to get his life in order, be a perfectly balanced human being, and still not “want to play footy anymore”.

.

THE best part of the new NRL commercial is women being depicted playing rugby league – or touch footy – rather than just cheering in the stands.

Many have seen the Women In League round has having a hint of tokenism in recent years with washing jumpers and working in the canteen given more plaudits than actually putting on the boots and playing.

It’s to be hoped women’s rugby league becomes more closely associated with the men’s game in Australia, as it is in New Zealand.

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I’M back in Oz now after five months on the road and I want to thank everyone who has supported the column since it was taken on by the Sydney Morning Herald.

read on

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