It’s one of the most common questions you get asked when you play rugby league: who’s your idol. For me, there’s three that stand out. I might be biased, but to me, they’re three of the best forwards in the Rabbitohs history, if not the NRL as well; Sam Burgess, Mario Fenech and George Piggins.
Halfway through my first season of rugby league, I had a head clash in a hit up that resulted in me fracturing my cheekbone. I remember crying in pain after the game but saying to my team mates “hey, now you can call me Sam Burgess”. I admire the dedication in Sam Burgess’ game and the fact that he takes putting his body on the line to another level. While his current game might not be at its best of 2014, he’s the ultimate demonstration of what a forward should be; hard running, tough and skillful.
Growing up with a dad who watched and supported South Sydney through their glory days, it was inevitable that I’d learn about the rich history and players. In the worse years, which there were many off, I listened to stories of the players that made them such a good team. One always stood out in my mind; George Piggins. It’s that balance of toughness and roughness yet fairness and skill in George’s games that made him such a standout player. If that wasn’t enough, his passion and dedication let the club I’ve supported survive.
Finally, how can I not include “The Falcon”? Mario Fenech, a hooker with skill and toughness. His dedication through the best and worst of times at South Sydney is beyond admirable, and he’s always a good personality to see representing rugby league. I met him once at Return to Redfern, and I was beyond surprised at how friendly and humble of a bloke he really is.
In the past few years that women’s rugby league has really been publicised, I’ve been able to finally see girls whose playing styles I can look up to; one of which is Ruan Sims. a tough, hard running forward who’s hard but fair. As someone who plays in the second and front row, she’s the type of player coaches wants you to be. She’s a humble representative of her team off the field, and a game winner on it.
For me growing up, I really only had male players to idolise and look up to. Girls playing Rugby League was almost unheard of, and it wasn’t until right before I started playing that I heard some of the big names that make up the Jillaroos. Hopefully, the next generation will be able to idolise girls like Kezie Apps and Ruan Sims, in the same way, we’ve grown to idolise the men.