Time for players to get smart [/u
]March 7, 2010
‘I’d wish no one knew who I was’ … Benji Marshall.
The Sun-Herald today welcomes Benji Marshall on board as part of our sports team. The Wests Tigers superstar starts his column with a forthright and revealing insight into the life of the modern footballer - and how players need to raise their game off the field.
At the start of every season we always think the game, and its players, are going to be better. And the game almost always is. But the players?
On the field, we probably will be, but it will be just as important for us this year to be better off it. It’s time for every player to take a stand.
What happens on the field has always taken care of itself, but the amount of dramas we’ve had off it - last year and leading into the start of this year - is just not good enough.
Ninety-five per cent of the players, maybe even 98 per cent of the players, don’t get in trouble. It’s just the odd few who do. But we all need to be smarter, and more aware of what’s happened in the past. I don’t think it’s that hard to get away from drugs or say no to a fight.
I’ve got to say, I’m very proud to be a footballer, but we all get tarred with the same brush. And it hurts.
Some people ask me what I do and sometimes I don’t even tell them. As soon as you tell someone you’re a footballer there’s already doubt.
Our reputation needs to be turned around. The game’s done a lot when it comes to attitudes towards women, and seminars about alcohol and drug use. The NRL is doing its part. I just think we’ve got to start doing our part better.
I’m not trying to tell every player to be a saint, or not to drink. Don’t get me wrong - I love a beer. But we’ve just got to be smarter when it comes to the silly things that are costing us headlines and sponsors.
Without the sponsors we don’t have a game. If players want to get paid more, we’re going to need the money from the television rights to increase, and we’re going to need more sponsors in the game. The only way to do that is to keep our image clean. Or at least cleaner.
At the Tigers, we have a slogan this year: full-time to professional. We can transplant that to what we do off the field as well. We are all full-time footballers, but if we want to be professional, we have to take it one step further. That’s not to say this is a simple thing to turn around. Maybe there needs to be some understanding about footballers, too.
I like going out with mates and catching up with guys who I don’t play footy with, but it is getting more difficult. You might go out and another guy’s drunk and he starts something, but you get the headline. And every year it gets worse. I can’t pick my nose in public without someone telling me I’m not allowed to.
Sometimes you just wish that, away from football, no one knew who you were.
I’ve got to admit, I think that all the time. I would at times wish no one knew me. I don’t mind most of the things that come with footy. But it is difficult to lead a normal life.
The best thing about being a professional rugby league player is doing what you love for a living, but it comes at a price. You see a lot of talented people out of the game because of it.
Before I go out, I always think about what could happen, the worst-case scenario, and I hate that. If I could have it my way, I’d be who I am when it comes to football and then away from it, I’d wish no one knew who I was. That might sound selfish, and I know you’ve got to take the good with the bad, but sometimes it does get too much - and I think I can handle things well.
I’ve lost friends over the years because of how much my life has changed, because I have to act a certain way and do certain things because of my lifestyle and because of the game I play. A lot of footballers don’t have lives away from rugby league. We don’t get to experience life as an 18- or 20-year-old. A lot of people have to grow up before their time.
I had to grow up earlier than I wanted to, because of how I was brought up, but a lot of people who haven’t had that might be shocked by it and go off the rails. It’s a great game, and it’s a great life, but it can also be a hard life.
I’ve had blokes come up to me wanting to fight me for no reason, girls throwing themselves at me, and even girls throwing their drinks at me. We can all learn a lesson though. I still try to live a normal life. I still go out with my mates on the weekend. I also try to be smarter about it. We all need to be.
Good Boy Benj!
I can understand all of what he said. As a member of Benji’s local community I can honestly say that we all know of him in the area, see him at the cafes and around the place but we all (well atleast most) give him his space.
He always has time for the kids and is a real good example as to how you can make it work even though you are a superstar!
Stay out of the headlines boys and make your name out on the field!