In years past, rugby league players would spend their off-season in Bali.
The island’s close proximity to Australia, warm weather and access to cheap vices (alcohol, drugs and women) has long appealed to the bogan. Thus, it was a natural fit for the rugby league player looking to blow-off steam with the boys after a demanding season.
Yet, spooked by scandals involving team mates and alcohol, rugby league players are now turning away from Bali and its smorgasbord of temptations – and turning to boxing.
Once upon a time rugby league players were viewed as just that – rugby league players. But it is now becoming de rigeur for them to be seen as athletes, capable of swapping between codes as easily as the Labor Party changes leaders.
While some rugby league players give up the game entirely to pursue a career in another sports code, most are staying in the NRL and dabbling with other athletic endeavours in the off-season. And boxing is becoming the destination of choice for those players looking for a bit of excitement on the side.
Boxing, a sport strewn with sleaze and yet so beautiful in its simplicity, is the perfect fit for rugby league.
The only sport more fitting would be greyhound racing, or perhaps shooting dice in the alley – but a rugby league player’s skills probably aren’t as naturally transferrable to those pursuits; nor is there as much money to be made.
Boxing works for rugby league players. The money is good and generally players only have one fight, and in the case of Paul Gallen, the fight may only last half a round.
Unlike American football, the rules of boxing are simple, so it’s easy to take up. On top of this, the training involved in preparing for a fight, i.e. punching, augments – not hinders – their football practice.
Whether the motivation is financial reward, keeping fit or avoiding a potentially nasty scandal after a few too many Bintangs in Kuta – or a combination of all three – it’s little wonder rugby league players are ditching the trip to Bali in favour of a jaunt to the boxing ring.
By Ben Shine