We've all known about the global economic crisis for some
time, but it looks like professional athletes in the rugby
codes are only just starting to feel the effects.
Two high-profile players have suddenly found themselves in
the dreaded void between jobs that we all try to avoid. In
the past week, Benji Marshall was released from his NRL
contract with the Tigers, and Ma'a Nonu expressed his lack of
desire to re-sign with the Highlanders.
I don't know Nonu or Marshall but their circumstances and
public personas are manufactured like most commodities these
days, so what kind of message are they presenting to
potential employers in these difficult times?
It was clear in an interview on the Footy Show that
Marshall wouldn't play for any other NRL team if he wasn't
wanted by the Tigers. He is like the Bengal tiger on the film
Life of Pi - stranded in no-man's land, looking for
his next meal ticket, and getting more desperate as each day
It seems a code switch is inevitable - it is just a matter of
whether it will be on Australian soil, with the Waratahs, or
on home soil, with the Blues scraping together their pennies.
As the tiger on Life of Pi found out, we all get desperate at
some point in our lives, and accept whatever gesture is
offered to survive. Will Marshall return to New Zealand's
humble offerings or stay in the land of plenty but in a
different code?Another rugby superstar to be cast afloat is
Nonu. Sticking with the animal theme, the cat represents what
Nonu symbolises since becoming untethered from the Hurricanes
after the 2011 season.
Cats are not known for their loyalty, don't tend to stick to
one owner, are moody and prefer to be left alone, and will go
with any owner who'd feed and take care of them. They're also
very territorial and don't appreciate being bothered. This is
the public Nonu in a nutshell.
Nonu would be a huge risk for any Super rugby team to invest
in because he has become a serial franchise player, having
spent one season with the Blues and then the Highlanders
without producing his best performances.
If the Chiefs and Crusaders have shown no intention of
providing a place to call home for Nonu, will he have to go
back to his original coach in a submissive pose?
Mark Hammett suggests the cat-flap is always open when it
comes to talking with Nonu, but will that reunion reap
rewards for the player, the coach, the team and the franchise
or will it signal a return to the toxic culture that was
rumoured to be rife in the wind-swept franchise where Nonu
was king cat?
Sir John Kirwan is more direct when summing up his feelings
about Nonu possibly signing with the Blues. The answer is no.
No Nonus allowed.
The NZRU has suddenly had to take on the role of SPCA to find
a home for this displaced All Black with his feline persona
Who knows what Nonu is really like as a person and player?
That is irrelevant. It is his public persona that will get
him a job or not.
He is very active on Twitter and seems to engage directly
with his fans in an open and honest way through this medium.
In the formalised arena of media interviews, however, he
seems reticent and complex.
If Nonu wrote his memoirs about his time as a rugby player,
I'd buy it. It would be filled with juicy fly-on-the-wall
stuff, and he has had his fair share of career ups, downs,
and turmoil to create an intriguing story.
Hopefully, the rugby career of this 31-year-old isn't nearing
its end just yet but he has to do some major smooching and
get first prize in the show for ''most well-behaved and
conscientious'' to win over at least one of the franchises,
as well as the New Zealand media and public.
Marshall is more user-friendly. He seems witty, articulate
and genuine. It's just that he isn't really performing on the
field of late, and he might be a tad expensive by New Zealand
rugby union standards, especially when no-one is sure if
he'll make the switch successfully.
Like everyone else, athletes are trying to put bread on the
table, and keep their families healthy and cared for.
If they don't want reality to hit them for six, like it did
former cricketer Mathew Sinclair, Benji Tiger and Moggy Ma'a
need to eat humble pie and take whatever is offered.
Otherwise, it is off to the dole queue with test caps in
hand. Start smooching, guys.