Cameron Smith | July 04, 2009
Article from: The Australian
IT is time for the good guys of rugby league to take their game back.
Like a lot of other players, I have been disappointed at different times this year when the actions of a small minority have cast a dark shadow over the entire league playing fraternity.
But to read the paper this week and see a player poll suggest that 60 per cent of respondents have been embarrassed to be a rugby league player just breaks my heart.
I love this game and owe so much of who I am and what I have to rugby league and the people involved in it. The same goes for the 400-odd blokes playing in the NRL and the countless other number of men and women rugby league has provided a living to through one way or another.
I am not trying to shirk the fact that we have taken a few hits to our credibility thanks to some serious indiscretions. But 95 per cent of players not only avoid such anti-social behaviour, but are wonderful contributors not just to the rugby league community but the community at large.
I am proud to call myself a rugby league player, proud to say I captain the Melbourne Storm, proud to have pulled on the famous Maroon jumper for Queensland and proud to know I have reached the pinnacle of representing my country as part of the mighty Australian Kangaroos side.
When I was a kid growing up I used to look up to guys like Wally Lewis, Darren Lockyer. I used to want to be like them. I dreamt about it, just like most of the guys running around in the NRL today.
And I take great pride in the fact that now it is me, that somewhere out there, there is a young kid running around in a Melbourne, Queensland or Australia jumper with No9 on the back wanting to be Cam Smith. We should all take pride in that because there is no doubt in my mind that there are kids who look up to each and every NRL player. I have seen it with my own eyes.
Contrary to what some of the critics believe, we aren't all spoiled, overpaid, arrogant thugs. In fact, for every hiccup off the field there are dozens of great things rugby league players do every day around Australia that go unreported.
For instance, I am proud to have teammates like Cooper Cronk, Dallas Johnson and Steve Turner. Not just because they are good blokes and great footballers but because I know that most weeks they spend much of their spare time doing hospital visits.
All three are representatives of the Starlight Foundation, who just do amazing, but sometimes heartbreaking work with sick kids in hospitals throughout Victoria.
Those guys are quiet blokes. They don't want cameras following them everywhere and they don't need pats on the back - that is not what it is about for them.
I know there are guys like that at all 16 clubs across our game and we should all take pride in the work they do. If you have ever seen the faces of those sick kids when they get a visit you will know exactly what I am talking about.
I am proud of guys like Preston Campbell, David Peachey, Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston, who have taken on major leadership roles within the Australian indigenous community.
These guys, and plenty of others I might add, travel to some of the poorest, most remote and underprivileged places in this country as part of the NRL indigenous program. But for whatever reason, someone, somewhere believes people are more interested in a story about a player or a group of players having a few beers somewhere - just like millions of other Australians do every weekend.
I don't care what some poll says. I am proud to say I have achieved what I have on the field too. I am proud to have won three minor premierships. I am proud to have been part of a Queensland State of Origin team that made history by winning four series in a row and I am proud of playing for Australia in a World Cup, even if we did fall just short of the big prize last year.
As far as I am concerned anyone who can't stand beside me and say they are proud of the game and everything that has made it so great for the past 101 years find some other way to make your living.
We don't want you or need you. Rugby league is full of great people, great stories, great challenges and great achievements. Rugby league is the greatest game of all. Say it with pride.
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