In this field, the job is its own reward

Is there anything in life that’s possible to get too much of? I’ll be honest, this job comes close.

Travelling around going to football games, interviewing rugby league players, writing columns, gibbering on the radio and getting paid for it IS actually as good as it sounds.

Some of you would hate to hear me whinge about doing something for a living that many people would do for free. Others, I guess, would take comfort in finding out it’s not all it’s cracked up to be and there might be some days where it’s a pain in the backside.

There is almost nothing bad about being a rugby league journalist. Yes, the industry is struggling and yes you have to do more for the same, or less, money these days.

But I really would do this for free. If you put a roof over my head and fed me, I would front up to do almost everything I do each day for nought.

But it is possible to get too much of even something stupendously good. If you work 20 weeks straight, you start to compare the good stuff with the fantastic stuff and the amazing stuff and wish you didn’t have to do the merely good stuff.

You start to question the “value” in some of the tasks that are being repeated week after week, month after month. There are two cures for this malaise.

One is to take a break. The other is to have an experience so transcendent that you slap yourself in the face for ever allowing a single negative thought to enter your synapses.

Watching Origin III from the sidelines on Wednesday night and then interviewing the victorious Queenslanders on the field at fulltime was one such experience. If you are too jaded to feel a high from that, you are too jaded for life.

Waiting for the siren to sound and being handed your wireless microphone and headset is like being strapped and sent on as a reserve. You feel nervous – that you’ll muff a question, get a fact wrong, call someone the wrong name.

Being in the middle of a huddle of players experiencing the greatest moments of their lives is an incredible sensation. To use terms like “humbling”, “mind-blowing” or “an honour” would be to do it a disservice because those descriptions have lost their meaning somewhat through overuse.

Mal Meninga was called to be in the Queensland team photo while I was talking to him. He declined, saying “it’s their effort, they deserve every accolade they get”. Players who appear super human, who have just completed one of the most difficult athletic endeavours any human has undertaken, chat amiably while waiting to go on air, surrounded by 80,000 screaming people packed into giant steel grandstands.

“What about the streaker, eh?” one might say.

And from a journalistic point of view, the quotes are raw – undiluted by a 45 minute wait to front the media in a sterile dressingroom with dozens of cameras and digital voice recorders shoved in the face of the players.

Here’s some of the stuff the Queenslanders said on Triple M last night.

Nate Myles: “A couple of plays on their [NSW’s] part I think were not team-smart. Credit to our boys, we went out to play as a team.”

Greg Inglis: “I think it was the effort by Darius Boyd that got us back in the game. That incredible kick return was just remarkable.” On the streaker: “I didn’t want to look at it, I’ll tell you that for a fact. I saw the big guy slip over and all I saw was a bare bottom up in the air. It was unlucky for Matt Scott… it’s a pity that fools like that want to ruin a high quality game such as Origin.”

Chris McQueen: “It’s hard to explain. I was pretty shocked to get that call-up for the first game and then to get the starting job… [It was] just guts, mate, that is the hardest game I’ve ever played… At the moment I’m just trying to soak it up. I’ve just won my first Origin series.”

And Meninga, who said the Origin futures of Justin Hodges and Brent Tate was “up to them”: “It’s got to be the greatest ever [team] in Origin history surely. I think they achieved that some time ago but they keep coming up with the right result.

“It’s not getting easier. We’ve got to keep putting in.”

I want to make something clear. This column is not meant to be about me. It’s just my account of a personal experience that underlines how lucky we are to be part of rugby league.

Sometimes we need reminding. Sometimes things happen that you can’t NOT write about. We were all lucky to be there last night.

Unfortunately, your correspondent has already booked a break – even though he now has enough energy and enthusiasm to go another 20 weeks straight.

There’ll be no Discord next week, give my regards to round 19 and when I return afterwards, I’ll catch up with all your comments on recent stories, which I won’t respond to here because it’s 1.15am and I’m still in the ANZ Stadium press box.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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