The Failing Courage Of Footballers
'Stop The Crying Game' by Trevor Gillmeister (THE AXE) The Sunday Mail, 15/9/2002

A newspaper article by a veteran footballer decrying the lack of courage of contemporary footballers

Easier to take a dive than to show toughness? WHAT happened to the old days when you never showed the opposition when you were hurting? To me, one of the hardest parts about playing league was the unwritten law you never showed you were in pain, in case the opposition thought they could use you as a weakness.

Take John Battler. Here was a bloke who achieved a hell of a lot in the game, but the one thing everyone remembers is how he played through a grand final with a broken jaw to help his team win.

In recent times, we have had the likes of Shane Webcke who, in 2000, came back early from a broken arm to play in a grand final. Webcke knew his arm was not healed, and the looks of agony and anguish on his face during the game as the bone shifted under impact were almost too gruesome to watch. Webcke knew it would be 80 minutes of torture. Importantly, his teammates knew as well, and they lifted to try to match his commitment, rewarding the big prop with a premiership ring for his heroics.

Such heroics, that were almost the rule in Battler's time, have become the exception today. Now, if someone gets a cuff over the ear or crunched in a clean, hard tackle, you could be forgiven thinking a marksman with a sniper rifle was on top of the grandstand.

How many times do you see it in a match, particularly late in the game when there are only a couple of points between the teams, where play stops for an injured player. You always see some bloke come down with cramp, or get up slowly after a "hard" knock, or put the top coat of nail polish on before playing the ball. Yet miraculously, after his team mates have regained their breath, the clock has been wound down sufficiently or the other team's momentum has evaporated, the magic sponge kicks in and our boy has a clean bill of health.

There are few things in our game that annoy me more. For today's players, it is easier to take a dive and hold up play than to show a bit of toughness and push themselves on through the ouchy bits.

It is a sign of softness. Tactics designed to slow the play down or waste time are ruining our game. The attraction of rugby league is that it is a fast, free-flowing game of high intensity physical contact. Adding half a dozen unnecessary stoppages because a bloke is not tough enough to be there detracts from the game.

Something has to be done about it before it really gets out of hand. Sure, I understand in today's world that referees are probably reluctant to force "injured" players to continue because they have visions of Johnny Cochrane lobbing on their doorstep on Monday morning with a freshly-inked subpoena. But let's get fair dinkum. If the bloke reckons he is too crook to play the ball, get him off the field or at least give the ball to one of his teammates to play while Badly Bruised Barry regains his composure.

I doubt we will see much of it in the finals, because if a player stays down and leaves his defensive line short it could mean the match in these big games.

A well-directed size nine Julius Marlow from the coach after the game will ensure he has something to limp about.