Boxing is the New Bali

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.

It was difficult to stop at just one pancake
It was difficult to stop at just one pancake

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.

So then Warren Gee says "let's do this"
Warren Gee turned to his friend Nate Dogg and remarked “let’s do this”

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

Rugby League Is Clinically Depressed

Paul Gallen is the human representation of the NRL. If he is depressed, it means Rugby League is also depressed.

Rugby league has been showing classic signs of depression for years.

It has been having trouble remaining interested in daily life. It no longer enjoys once pleasurable activities such as international football – it’s simply been going through the motions for the past decade and a half.

The embodiment on rugby league
The embodiment of rugby league

Rugby league also engages in self loathing, reckless behaviour. It makes decisions, like trying to make new friends in Melbourne, which have the unintended effect of turning it’s existing friends in Sydney away.

Rugby league feels helpless and hopeless. Caught between not knowing whatever it wants to be a global entertainment package or a tribal sport with strong Australian roots and rusted on local support, it is riven with a deep existential angst.

"What do I want to be when I grow up?"
“What do I want to be when I grow up?”

Rugby league needs time out. It needs a break and a bit of separation from the negative influences in its life. A weekend break to Bali will not be enough. It needs a one to two year sabbatical in Barcelona, Berlin or somewhere equally foreign.

But rugby league will need more than a break. It will also need psychoanalysis. It needs to lie down on the couch and have a 50-year-old woman with horned glasses and a Germanic name gently probe into its past.

Over the course of twelve one-hour sessions, rugby league will drill down into its own psyche. Deep insecurities stemming from a troubled family life will surface. Events including the messy divorce of parents Kerry and Rupert in the mid 90s, which resulted in the abandonment of children Rabbit, Steel, Bear and others, will be identified as a key driver of rugby league’s current malaise.

The court cases were especially traumatic
The court cases were especially traumatic

But the therapy sessions will go beyond blaming family for all of rugby league’s troubles – for rugby league must accept responsibility for its current predicament. The alcohol-fuelled benders, domestic violence charges and steroid abuse, viewed so often as a symptom of rugby league’s problems, will come to be seen as a fundamental root of the problem, and something that must be addressed in its own right through a series of courses on anger management and substance abuse treatment, as well as daily Transcendental Meditation.

There will be crying and there will be anger, and rugby league will have to ask itself a lot of hard questions. It will go to some pretty dark, disturbing places, yet with the guidance of our therapist, a solid support network of family and friends, and some good old fashioned hard work, rugby league may one day be healthy enough to regain its place as a functioning and contributing member to Australian society*.

By Ben Shine

*This article is not intended to cause offence to those suffering mental illness. For anyone facing difficulties, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.


Karmichael Hunt offers new insight on how to clean up Rugby League

“Rugby league players get into more trouble because they are dumb and/or uneducated”.

It’s a  justification that is tossed around every time a rugby league player is caught for assault, drink driving or pissing in his own mouth.

But it’s not just pub talk. Public figures such as Peter Fitzsimons’ have long espoused a similar view, although his particular version is laced with slightly more boorish class warfare overtones (never mind the fact that  people with degrees from a sandstone universities also embarrass themselves while on the piss).

Indeed, the view that rugby league players are over-represented when it comes to off-field indiscretions and brushes with the law is widely held simply because there aren’t many people arguing against it.

But thankfully Karmichael Hunt – a man who has more insight than most when it comes to the football codes – has offered an alternative view.

Karmichael told a radio station recently:

“The demands of AFL footy mean you need to be in peak condition. For most of the year you need to be able to knock out 12km or 13km on the weekend. In terms of the culture of going out and enjoying yourself after every game, that does not happen whereas in rugby league, because the physical demands are a lot lighter compared to AFL, you could find boys out enjoying themselves. I certainly did when I was younger because I knew that the next week it would not affect me.”

So according to Mr Hunt, it’s not that rugby league players aren’t smart enough to avoid getting into trouble. It’s the fact they have enough energy left over after a game to go out on the town for a drink, a fight and a glassing.

And therein lies the solution to cleaning up rugby league: make the players run more. If they’re too tired, they won’t get up to mischief.

Thanks to Karmichael’s insight, we now have a blueprint on how to fix up the code. Below are three subtle rule changes that will clear things up quickly.

1. Add bumper bowling bars to the sides of the field.

By putting walls around the edges of the field, the ball will never go out of play. This will reduce timely stoppages and make it harder for players to catch their breath. It will also make collisions between the wingers and the wall interesting/dangerous (the two are not mutually exclusive).


2. Take away two players from each team. It’s now 11 a side.

Get rid of the two second-rowers. All they do is clog up the field and slow down the game by making tackles and stopping people running. I don’t think they will be missed.

By removing two massive humans from the field, we are freeing up a lot of space.
By removing two massive humans from the field, we are freeing up a lot of space.

3. Play on a cricket oval.

Rugby league’s glory days took place on the SCG. This is the perfect opportunity to return league to it’s rightful place, but this time the push the field up to the boundary. This will bring the fans closer to the action, and make the players run more (thus getting more tired).

"You see Johnno, it's kind of like AFL but we hit each other more"
“You see Johnno, it’s kind of like AFL but we hit each other more”

By making these simple alterations to the game of rugby league, we can clean up the code’s image. It’s not about introducing mandatory behaviour codes, fining players and sacking them for making mistakes, the solution is making players expend more energy on the field, so they will have less energy to commit felonies or bring disgrace on themselves and the code.

Thanks Karmichael. Who would of thought that the very man who abandoned the game would one day save it?

By Ben Shine.