The players on a pittance put mad Mario to shame

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THANKFULLY for some reason perfectly sane twentysomethings want to play rugby league at a semi-professional level.

They love a sport that takes that word professional seriously. Players make a commitment in time and effort. It’s work during the day then tough training sessions three nights a week plus gym work in their ‘spare’ time and as most games are on Sunday you can forget a Saturday night out. That’s the kind of lifestyle that the upper class send their children to public school to experience.

The rewards wouldn’t pay a banker’s bar bill for the evening. Even in a good season ‘winning pay’ won’t have them signing up for one of those property porn TV shows where stars search for a second home in the sun - more like a tent from Halfords.

They are part of a team and there’s not much room for Balotelli moments in rugby league. Pull a Stupid Mario stunt and it’s your team that suffers.

It’s not that there aren’t characters in rugby league. To be a half-back you have to be bossy and have an ego. Hookers tend to be from another planet.

The forwards belong to their gang and live in a hard world but occasionally they escape the shackles and do a fair impression of a winger.

A minute into the second half at Featherstone and just as a colleague was remarking that Eagles’ Alex Szostak was ‘grafting’ (true praise from a Post Office Road regular) the second rower swept up a dropped ball and raced 60 metres to the line.

It was try 24 over five seasons for Szostak but a bigger milestone is ahead this weekend when he’ll mark up a 100 games for the Eagles with the fourth round Challenge Cup tie at York.

Mark Aston has called Alex his ‘Million-dollar Man’ because of his value to the team.

The Eagles won’t be giving Alex a million-dollar bonus but he’s earned it - the hard way.

Four games into the Championship and the Eagles have been central to some of the early shocks – the embarrassing loss to Halifax followed by the massive bounce in winning 60-40 at Featherstone.

Ex-Eagles star and now Rovers coach Daryl Powell summed up quite a few people’s feelings after his team’s first home defeat for 22 games (the last time was also the Eagles!) by saying he’d ‘look at the DVD to make sure it really happened’.

In the division of death Doncaster are well on track to claim one of the four promotion places after they put 58 points on London Skolars. They go to Bradford in the Cup – that should boost the bank balance.

The referee at Featherstone was Tim Roby whose day job is given on the RFL website as ‘philosopher’ – like the rest of us he should have plenty to think about as the season goes on.