How Come Rugby League Players Get A Hall Pass?

Benji Marshall thought he’d have a crack at playing rugby union. He thought he’d be good. He was wrong.

I’m sure that Marshall was a child prodigy who excelled in both codes as a youngster. I have nothing to verify this, but as a kid growing up in New Zealand I feel it’s highly likely that he, at one stage or another, tore up a rugby union field.

But to throw away a distinguished career in the NRL for a ill-advised stab at the Super 15?

It’s much like the man who impulsively walks out of his 20-year marriage to have a look around and “see what’s out there,” before realising that the landscape has shifted. He’s not the young man he once was – and his ability to bed women has diminished exponentially.

It’s basically the plot-line of Hall Pass with Owen Wilson and Jason Sudekis, if you replace the prospect of unfettered casual sex with the erotic lure of rugby union success.

Marshall during his 'salad days'. As in the days where he actually ate salad.
Marshall during his ‘salad days’. As in the days where he actually ate salad.

I’ve written this post on a tram using my iPhone, sure. But bear with me because I feel I’m onto something here.

Marshall thought this Hall Pass would be the easiest thing in the world. That he could just go out there and crush it in a new code, despite presumably not having touched a Gilbert/Summit in the best part of 10-12 years.

But, like the women of 2014, with their sexual aggression and troubling slut wave feminism, rugby union has changed. And it has left Marshall feeling as confused and outdated as Don Draper at a swingers party in 1969.

Cool in 1959; 'square' in 1969. But cool again in 2014 of course.
Cool in 1959; ‘square’ in 1969. But cool again in 2014 of course.

What gives rugby league players – and, to be fair, some union players – the idea that they’d take to an entirely different profession so easily?

Personally, I have just undertaken something of a career shift. I wouldn’t call it a Hall Pass, because I have no intention to returning to my former industry. As such, I am a convert – as opposed to a code-hopper. A Karmichael Hunt, as opposed to a Benji Marshall.

I understand that I must earn my stripes in my own chosen code. I don’t expect to be rushed into the Super 15 equivalent of my industry; quite the opposite. I will present myself as a bloke who is good to be around. Someone who does all the little things right. A ‘club man’. A bloke who trains the house down. And other italicised sporting cliches.

Today, a bloated version of his former self
Today, a bloated version of his former self

One more thing. Marshall says he is feeling “the happiest I’ve been in years.” That itself is a worrying statement. Why? Because no-one who is truly happy needs to announce to the world that, indeed, yes, they have never been happier.

Look at Facebook, for example. Mark Zuckerberg’s social media site is teeming with people who publicly claim to be incredibly happy. Those folks breathlessly post photos of endless sunsets in between glowing relationship status updates and general hyperbolic drivel.

We all know that these public declarations of happiness are nothing more than a feeble attempt to deflect from their unbearable lives – and that they probably, you know, drink a little bit too much.

Quick caveat: I am not saying that Marshall probably drinks a little too much. Who knows how much is too much for him, anyway? We all have different tolerance levels, and from all reports he knows how to put away a schooner.

Bob Hawke - loved beers but still managed to maintain a taut, bronzed physique
Bob Hawke – loved beers but still managed to maintain a taut, bronzed physique

But I hope that The Marshall Experiment can prove to rugby league players for once and for all that, if you’re going to have a crack at rugby union – or another code, such as AFL, like Karmichael Hunt has done – you need to take it seriously; to treat it as a genuine career shift.

Consider what you’re getting into – and whether it’s worth leaving your wife* for.

By Dave Edwards

*I realise that I have referred to rugby league as a long-suffering wife here – and I’m comfortable with that. After all, his former club, the Wests Tigers, appear to be seeking some kind of ‘alimony’  following their bitter separation. I could extend this metaphor further – and maybe I will at some point. 

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