Player Loyalty In Sport

I was watching the Sunday afternoon rugby league game yesterday, and being a long time Bulldogs supporter (and Eels hater) I have to admit I was pretty happy with the punishing the Dogs dished out. They are having a great start to the season and have won as many games in the first six rounds of the competition as they managed to win in all of 2008.

One of the keys reasons for this success has been the signing of veteran Brett Kimmorley. He is having an obvious impact on the field, and if you listen to the reports and read the players comments there isĀ  no doubt his presence off the field has also had a positive impact at the Belmore club.

Love/Hate Relationships In Sport

Here’s the thing…Kimmorley used to be one of my most disliked players. I mean right up there, top three players who I really enjoyed seeing smashed by the biggest forward on the park as he steamed in from a 20m run-up and hopefully raised the leg old school Mad Dog MacDougal style.

What made things worse for me was that Kimmorley normally handled this fairly well.

I think it kind of goes back to the days where NSW selectors were trying to squeeze both Kimmorley and Andrew Johns into State of Origin teams, so they’d push Johns out of position and I always felt kind of robbed I didn’t get to see more of Johns at half back for NSW.

Anyway, so now Kimmorley’s at the Bulldogs…and I can’t help but like the guy all of a sudden. I’m laughing at his jokes in interviews, urging him on as he sprints 80m to score a try and so on.

One-Club Players A Dying Breed

This then got me to thinking about player loyalty and how much of a rarity it is to see guys these days like Hasim El Masri who’s just three games away from notching up 300 games with the Bulldogs.

300 alone is a huge achievement, let alone with the same club. It’s just not the done thing in the professional sports era.

IPL The Ultimate In Cash Over Substance

This idea of cash over loyalty has now been stretched to it’s furthest extreme in the ‘business’ of the Indian Premier League cricket tournament which has just begun it’s second year.

Teams known as franchises, players auctioned off, Warnie hanging out with Bollywood starlets…I think old school cricketers would be turning in their graves, but the die has been cast and it seems 20/20 cricket is here to stay.

So as this new age of the mercenary sportsman evolves (and my ramblings reach some sort of point), the question becomes how do officials ensure the traditional forms of sports such as cricket remain vital.

In ten years time will nations such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the islands of the Caribbean still place value in their test cricket. Or will the deadly combination of lucrative profits and economic instability create a money comes first attitude and a devaluing of the long form of the game?

Taking Cricket To The Heathens

Many consider it an exciting time for cricket as the sport’s money men now have a product they can market outside of the regular strongholds of the game.

The traditionalists on the other hand give their approval through gritted teeth as they come to the realisation that this is not a passing fad and they attempt in vain to influence the direction this new version of the game takes the sport.

I’ll admit I wasn’t a fan of Twenty20 to start with – and not much has changed since the first match I watched. I like one-off games with players miked up and the half time entertainment, but I just can’t see myself becoming a die hard supporter of one particular IPL franchise, no matter how many big hitting foreign cricketers turn out for their million dollar paychecks.

And I think that’s where the problem is going to be down the track. Officials are talking of creating franchises with a brand identity to match that of the big European Football clubs.

In the words of the great Darryl Kerrigan…”Tell ’em their dreaming”.

There will be fervent support on the sub-continent without doubt. Outside that market I can’t see it happening in my lifetime.

But I could be wrong – only time will tell.


PS If you agree or disagree with anything, or you just want to voice your own opinion feel free to do so below.

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