Why We Love the Journeymen of Our Game

You must forgive me for loving rugby league players that often reside on the other side of the world or who end up at more clubs than a bloke’s pub crawl.

To be honest, I’m very fortunate to have arguably the best competition in the world right on my doorstep, however I’m more privy to getting excited watching players that most people may never have heard of, let alone seen in action.
In fact, it is a thrill for me when an unknown player from Sydney might want to try his luck in Wales, or perhaps that lone Scotsman who has washed up unannounced on the Gold Coast just looking for that big break.
It is a huge leap of faith to pack the bags and head off into the unknown, but that is what just some blokes do.
Enter the journeyman.
The journeyman may have played for more than five to six clubs on his rugby league odyssey before finally finding a club he loves, but for how long is anybody’s guess?
Quite simply, the journeyman gives invaluable service to every club he signs for, no matter where he goes.
Be it a mid-season purchase to help cover injuries or adding some experience off the bench, the journeyman is an expert of packing up and moving on at the drop of a hat.
However, once his job is done, the cycle starts all over again at his new club.
With enough jerseys in his collection to nearly kit out a whole team, he will be that one player who will bust a gut, knowing he is being paid to do a job but on peanuts money.
Journeymen are rarely lazy, seldom moan or complain.
In fact, they will probably be that bloke in the dressing sheds who often doesn’t say much, he just keeps to himself and focuses on the job at hand.
Journeyman will not have the latest materialistic things.
There is no top of the range Mercedes or Apple iPhone, the journeyman will normally have a clapped out Ford Falcon with over 350,000 kms on the clock and perhaps one of those old school flip top phones, very similar to what Don Johnson used on Miami Vice way back in 1985.
It’s these bargain basement buys that give a club the chance to sign a player who will bleed for you on command, albeit, all for a piddly contract.
Usually these battlers barely survive and bite off their fingernails worrying if they can put food on the table 12 months down the track.
Some will have families, whilst others are just loners.
They are dice rollers who one day could be hopping on a plane and landing in freezing cold England, to washing up at some picturesque seaside club on Australia’s coastline filling in for a player that may have had a season-ending injury.
It’s not that these players carry a certain stigma about them, they simply just fly under the radar and are reliable.
Long single-club careers are rewards only for those who show tremendous skill or are that incredibly gifted, they are simply sewn up on lifetime contracts.
Flashes of brilliance may have you holding all the aces at the negotiating table, but those players that fly stealth mode under the radar, best pack a world map in your suitcase and try to get the best deal possible without a manager speaking on your behalf.
A prime example of the journeyman is former Brisbane Souths hero and one-time Newtown player Johnny Elias.
Having played at more clubs than the Beatles, Elias gave great service to every club he signed for.
From pulling on the South Sydney Rabbitohs jersey twice (84 and 94), to washing up at ambitious Second Division club Leigh in the UK and was lucky enough to sample the south of France with Avignon, Elias has been the ultimate journeyman.
But what is it about these players that for some, is like having a car full of unpacked boxes?
As far as recycling goes, Bryan Norrie’s rise from the scrapheap ranks among the best.
Craig Bellamy’s knack of manufacturing a fringe first grader to premiership winner, is why most journeyman love signing for the Storm.
Norrie would end up becoming another statistic of Melbourne’s list of diamonds in the rough.

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In 2017, the NRL transfer list included 12 journeymen who were set to join at least their fourth NRL club.
Topping the list with enough clubs to rival John Farnham, were the unwanted Blake Green, the underrated Jeremy Latimore, and Dunamis Lui.
Green would later find a home at the Warriors before a messy contract deal would see the halfback on the move yet again.
But it is not just the unwanted or the roughies trying to get a lucky break.
There are the one-time wonder kids like Jamal Idris who had the world at their feet, limelight depraved fringe-first graders and reformed bad boys.
Sometimes the axe will hover over a journeyman his entire time at his club, just waiting until a momentary lapse in form is enough for management to cut him loose when they see fit.
But, you simply must take your hat off to the journeyman.
Having a licence to hop on any plane no matter where rugby league is played and fitting into any club like a glove, it’s the journeyman’s invaluable experience around the globe that sees him in high demand when a club is struggling.

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But that’s the beauty of rugby league’s journeyman – always on the move, highly entertaining and sometimes unappreciated for what he is worth.
As the years tick away and the journeyman starts to wind down his nomadic career, it becomes a frightening prospect of that fear of post retirement.
Usually rugby league is all that he knows and with the occasional labouring job here and there, it becomes a little unsettling once the prospect of hanging up the boots for good is nearing.
Bit just like any transit lounge; the journeyman will always land on his feet somewhere around the world waiting for his next destination.
There is a myriad of these players from all walks of life in all corners of the globe.
Take Parramatta Eel David Gower – (with Parramatta his fifth club) is normally sweating bullets on just how much room is left under the salary cap just to line his pockets.
Or what about former Rabbitoh Tyran Smith who you could say was unlucky not to find a permanent home, but like a tube of Selleys no more gaps, filled the hole needed by every coach he played under.

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We all know that one journeyman around the traps don’t we?
We know him as the bloke with his car still running in the driveway with the keys in the ignition and has enough Elastoplast tape in his kitbag to rival any 70-plus master’s player riddled with arthritis still toiling away with his mates.
As the marquee players nowadays normally become one club players signing lengthy lifetime contracts, It’s hard for players not to sit and listen to the journeyman as he tells of his trials and tribulations of moving from club to club and telling stories from wandering the world for success.
As the journeyman saying goes… “If you do not know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else.”
No truer words have been spoken.
Who was your favourite journeyman? Comment on our Facebook page.

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