James Maloney of the Sharks spills the ball under the tackle of Ryley Jacks and Felise Kaufusi of the Storm in round 14.
James Maloney of the Sharks spills the ball under the tackle of Ryley Jacks and Felise Kaufusi of the Storm in round 14. CRAIG GOLDING

Thanks James - we respect you too

UNLIKE some, I was not alarmed by the comment from James Maloney that - apart from the players - those involved in rugby league are merely "accessories". And I wasn't surprised.

Unfortunately observations like this are not just reflective of a self-absorbed boofhead like Maloney, but they say much about current-day sporting heroes and society in general.

We no doubt live in a "what's in it for me?" world where materialism is king. And recent threatened strike action by our Test cricketers and NRL players does little to negate that supposition.

For as long as I can remember I have had an infatuation with rugby league. As a kid growing up on an isolated property my only contact with the game was through a transistor radio and newspapers, which arrived three days after being published. But I devoured every word heard and read.

To have been blessed to then spend the past four decades involved closely in the game in print, radio and TV has been a dream job. And while I may not have scored any NRL tries, landed goals or won a premiership, I'd like to think my contribution has been more than just a decoration.

I'm also certain that Rita Langer, mum of Alfie, who two weeks ago turned up for her regular volunteer job at the Norths Ipswich canteen for her 45th successive year, doesn't believe her selfless support of junior footy has been in vain. And referee Gavin Badger, who a couple of weeks ago officiated in his 300th NRL game, probably hopes he too has been a valued contributor to the game.

Okay, so Maloney chose his words poorly. And maybe he didn't really mean it when he told NRL boss Todd Greenberg that the players were the code's most important commodity, and without them there was no game.

But he is a chosen leader. Maloney sits on the board of the Rugby League Players Association, which, as a matter of interest, consists of chairman Russell Adams, president Cameron Smith, CEO Ian Prendergast, Deidre Anderson, Adam Blair, Jeremy Latimore, Tim Mannah, Nimesh Shah, Joseph Sponholz, Eloni Vunakece and Maloney.

I can find no record of Adams, Anderson, Shah or Sponholz having played rugby league, and certainly none of them played at NRL level. And Prendergast was an AFL player who made 65 top-grade appearances for Carlton.

That begs the question - does Maloney also consider these fellow RLPA board members mere accessories?

This, folks, is the same James Maloney who has played with five NRL clubs - the Eels, Storm, Warriors, Roosters and Sharks - which either says much about his grating personality or his appetite for more money. This is also the same James Maloney who earlier in the season sought an upgrade from the Sharks for next season, despite having another year to run on his contract. And it is the same James Maloney who leads the NRL in two vital statistics in 2017 - most penalties conceded and most tackles missed.

It will be interesting to see how the offended salt-of-the-earth Knights supporters receive him when the Sharks visit Newcastle on Sunday.

News Corp Australia

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