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Sinfield stays loyal as Eastmond moves on

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George Riley George Riley | 11:39 UK time, Thursday, 3 March 2011

Last week, 30-year-old Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield signed a new contract to stay at Headingley for the rest of his professional career. This week, 21-year-old St Helens scrum-half Kyle Eastmond decided to join Bath rugby union. I find the respective career choices of both players fascinating.

I spoke to Sinfield at length as the Leeds squad took a day off following what the England forward describes as "two hard days fixing what went wrong" after a shock home defeat by surprise Super League leaders Harlequins. I am told the Rhinos had a swim and then watched a video of their 36-26 reverse, which made for "unpleasant viewing".

I rang Sinfield to discuss loyalty in sport and to ask him what inspires some players to commit to one club, while others, rightly or wrongly, concentrate on maximising their earning potential? Should we respect a one-club man more than one who chooses to step out of his comfort zone for a new challenge?

"Loyalty has always been a big thing in my life but it works two ways," Sinfield told me. "The club has been very loyal to me. When I signed that deal last week, many people thought I was foolish. Leeds are not the biggest or best payers but I have a good lifestyle and they have invested so much in grassroots rugby league and in young players that it makes it very, very difficult for me to think of leaving."

St Helens invested in Eastmond, too, yet he still decided to move on. "It is very disappointing as we spent a lot of time and effort on Kyle's development over the years," admitted Saints assistant coach Keiron Purtill.

Yet in highlighting Sinfield as a beacon of loyalty and rugby league's equivalent of Ryan Giggs, I had to ask how close the Oldham-born player has come to leaving the club that has developed him. The answer is very close. He even tells me he was considering switching codes this year.

"I've been approached to play union and I was tempted," he said. "There were a couple of occasions when I seriously evaluated where I was at and what I wanted from my career.

"I met with England coach Sir Clive Woodward in 2002/3 when union were targeting a lot of league players. Andy Farrell moved shortly after that. Keiron Cunningham, Kris Radlinski and a few other young lads were approached, too.

Kevin Sinfield and Kyle EastmondSinfield is sticking with league - Eastmond is heading to union. Photos: Getty Images

"I really considered it but at the time I had not won anything at Leeds and wanted to tick as many boxes as I could in league before I thought about trying union."

In contrast, Eastmond has achieved very little yet in league - which is why some fans have criticised the Saints scrum-half.

Sinfield thinks it is unfair that Eastmond is getting flak, yet the Leeds stalwart urges the youngster to be realistic about the size of the challenge facing him.

"You certainly need to consider your own welfare and livelihood, like he is doing," said Sinfield. "And you would be really foolish if you did not want to do your best for yourself and your family. Being a rugby league player is not like being a millionaire footballer. And it is a difficult balance, trying to earn as much as you can to live a good life but being happy doing what you do. For me, that does not mean chasing pound notes."

Almost a decade after Sinfield was first given the chance to join union, he was handed another opportunity to switch codes. Again, he decided to turn it down.

"I had two years left on my deal so it would have meant paying a transfer fee or playing out two years until I was 32," said Sinfield. "It would have been unrealistic to think I could have learned an entire new sport like union at 32. You need to be respectful of the game and to think I could try it at 32 would be taking the mickey."

Eastmond is nine years Sinfield's junior and has no problem with confidence. But how will he cope with another sport, one in which he has no obvious starting position?

"I'm not quite sure how it is going to pan out for him," Sinfield told me. "Even now, Kyle will not realise just how much he has got to learn - and he won't do until he starts training and playing the game."

The Leeds captain believes Eastmond will need to be patient but thinks he could eventually emulate another recent union convert.

"As a league scrum-half, Kyle will touch the ball three times a set. In union, he may go through a whole game on the wing only touching the ball once or twice. It will be a slow and frustrating learning process but Kyle could have a similar impact to Chris Ashton."

But nothing is guaranteed, as Sinfield himself will acknowledge. Both Chev Walker and Lee Smith, players Sinfield knows well, experienced short and ultimately unhappy spells in union before making a return to league.

Walker himself has been unusually vocal following the announcement that Eastmond will join Bath at the end of the Super League season. He feels the Rugby Football League should be doing more to stop the talent drain, urging rugby league's governing body in this country to focus more on marketing the stars to the public than the game itself.

"The last household names of rugby league were Martin Offiah and Ellery Hanley," said Walker, who returned to league in 2007 after starting only eight matches for Bath. "Promote the stars not just the game!"

It is an argument with which Sinfield wholeheartedly agrees.

"Union players and footballers get massive media spotlight and their profile is huge. I think league sometimes just relies on the product," he said. "The product is fantastic and we all think it is the best game in the world but we can't just rely on that to spread the game wide and make it internationally stronger.

"We need to get some of our stars involved with the big sponsors and brands to create personalities and interest. With the salary cap restricting player earnings, we need this to boost our income and then the lure of union won't be so big."

I finished our chat by discussing Sinfield the player and Sinfield the man, once again likening his career to that of Giggs. "I don't do yoga like Giggs but I am trying to look after myself - and have done since the start," said Sinfield.

"I like my massages. We have a sports masseur who is quite happy to stick in his elbows as deep as he can. It is pretty brutal and unpleasant but seems to do the trick. That plus the right nutrition and enough sleep should allow me to enjoy the next four years."

Content in league with Leeds, you get the feeling that Sinfield probably has no problem sleeping at night.


  • Comment number 1.

    I don't have a problem with League players moving to Rugby. The money & profile is much bigger in Rugby within the UK.

    What I have found in the past, with players like Andy Farrell & Henry Paul, they should have tested themselves at the highest level in League. That means playing in the NRL. Trying to win a premiership. They never did that.

    Plus the lifestyle in Aussie & NZ ain't bad either. I say that as an Englishman living & working in Auckland. Good luck to Eastmond & Co, but I think the NRL would be the ultimate test & pleasure.

  • Comment number 2.

    What a player Kevin Sinfield has been and is both on and off the pitch, the perfect ambassador for our game as was such as Paul Sculthorpe but as a game Rugby League does not do sufficient to promote the image of these leading true sportsmen especially to the younger audience and I don't just mean along the M62 corridor.

    I still see Eastmond as a risk, has he even proven himself in Rugby League, but then again what outlay have Bath made, he seems to be running down his contract and I have heard of no fee being paid.

    Rugby League as a game needs to well and truly wake up, but then again most clubs and supporters are really parochial and are not really interested in The Good of The Game and its future? just their own club and team!

  • Comment number 3.

    Tony Smith commented this week on the player drain to Union, he wants the salary cap increased to help keep players in League. Maybe that is the way to go before anymore Kyle Eastmonds leave our code. I am a St.Helens fan but he will be a real loss to the International scene as a whole over the next 5yrs+. Maybe he has seen the £ signs or the promise of bonuses & England team etc but he knows nothing about union and even Bath say it will take 3-4yrs before he learns the trade at halfback, he has been nurtured for 10 years at League and that's all he knows. I would go further than just increasing salary cap. Our game rarely has transfer fees nowadays as once a players contract expires he can freely move from club to club which in turn release salary constraints from the cap to free it up for other players to come in. But in a case like this where a 21yr old is lost to our game the Rugby League need bring in a rule to get a compensation fee from Rugby Union. Based the players stature and age I would think £500k-£1m would be suffice for a club. Don't forget Rugby League clubs are the losers here, merchandise, extra gate money, sponsorship....if Sam Tomkins had gone to Union as well then that would have been another 21yr old lost. Rugby League hieracrhy need to act quickly and stop burying their heads in the sand. We need to make it more attractive to stay in the RL code and penalise Union for taking our best players !!!

  • Comment number 4.

    To be fair, Sinfield is probably now too old to make the succesful change, though I still admire his loyalty and his dedication to his chosen sport.

    I hope that Eastmond would make a big splash in union, but I just can't see it, I don't know why - a hunch! I think his quick acceleration and creativity was ideally suited to league, and if he's deficient in other areas then this will get found out against a 15-man defence.

  • Comment number 5.

    Eastmond's move is obviously sad for the sport. He will now earn a higher wage and potentially play on bigger international stages more often than he would in League. However for his playing career its a waste.

    His game will invariably be stripped of many of its facets, leaving him to simply play a 'bit' part in a large sluggish whole, stuck out on the wing freezing to death or throwing that simple repetitive pass out of the back of the ruck.

    Its a shame.

    With regards to the concept that most clubs and supports aren't interested in the sport as a whole, I fail to see how that correlates with RL. There is animosity between fans of different clubs, if Hull KR vanished tomorrow I wouldn't let it upset my dinner, but this feeling is coupled with a genuine undercurrent of mutual support. A strong Hull KR, beating Hull FC or not, makes the sport richer and stronger. A sadness is felt throughout the RL community regarding the collapse of clubs such as Blackpool, a quick flip through the fans forums will tell you that.

    There is a deep rooted sense of community support within the game and hopefully Mr Eastmond will return to it's fold within due course. The loyalty of playes like Kevin Sinfield should be rewarded by the League and yes a little more 'Star Player' promotion wouldn't go a miss

    For The Good of The Game

  • Comment number 6.

    As a Leeds fan I couldn't be happier that Sir Kevin is staying, he's been a phenomenal servant to the club.

    As for Kyle Eastmond, he has yet to realise his potential in League, and will have a lot to learn in Union. It will be tough for him, but if he's going to go now was the time, while he still has time to learn. He'd be a waste on the wing and I'm not sure his defence and physical presence suit a modern 10. I could see him developing into a full back or even a scrum half given time. Good luck to him, he has to make his own career choices and I hope it works out for him. One thing he has plenty of is talent, so if he's patient there's no reason he can't be a big success.

    As for #3, I fail to see how, legally, you could force a club from another sport to pay a fee for an out of contract player. If I recall rightly Iestyn Harris commanded a fee of about £800k when he left Leeds for Cardiff, but he was still in contract so Leeds could insist on that. There's no way Saints were in a position to extract any cash for the Eastmond transfer.

    Ultimately, raising the profile of the game, and hence the earning potential of players, is probably the only solution. That, and the related challenge of building a credible international game. The lure of occasions like the Rugby Union World Cup and even regular Six Nations games in front of 80000 at Twickenham stand no real comparison with home test matches in this country, where 20000 is often a struggle.

  • Comment number 7.

    I wonder if the author would have worried about how well players slept when those switching were moving in the other direction.

  • Comment number 8.

    As a lover of both codes, but with my heart in the Union camp, I worry about Eastmond. Is the idea to create Jason Robinson by other means?

    League players often don't have an obvious position in Union - Farrell struggled to find a real home before settling on inside centre, but was never really quick enough. I presume that's where Sinfield would have slotted in had he gone (though a few years ago and he would have made an interesting candidate for retraining as an open-side). I never understood where Cunningham would have played had he gone (and I think it was one of the reasons why he didn't). Connolly, Robinson, Hape, Ashton were all a lot clearer. To be fair, so were Walker and Smith, but sometimes things just don't work out.

    As a scrum half in RL, Eastmond will struggle to find a slot to call his own. His pass won't be tight enough or his game sense sharp enough to play 9 in RU, at least not for a while, and as Sinfield says, he'll probably find himself on the wing, albeit stepping in to 9 or 10 on occasions in phase play to 'create a bit of magic'. Full back, a al Robinson at Sale? Maybe, though that's a position Bath are very well off in, and I'm not sure the comparison with JR needs to be played up any more than it inevitably will be. His size worries me too. He'll be by far the smallest bloke in the Premiership (I know there aren't as many Andy Gregory types around in RL as there used to be, but there are still more), and I wouldn't fancy his tackling against some of the galoots playing on the wings these days.

    A brave club would treat him as a long-term prospect and school him in the ways of scrum-half play for a year before unleashing him the season after next. Whether Bath could afford to take that kind of view, and whether Eastmond would be happy with it, is another matter.

  • Comment number 9.

    harbourmaster - yes Kevin says as much, he sat down and decided what he wanted to do and thought he'd be told old to try union now

  • Comment number 10.

    Any League player with speed, who can tackle (Robinson & Ashton) can play union if they work at it. Its the slower lumbering ones like Farrell who have a problem, as they are not very effective at playing from 11 to 14 and don’t have the technical ability to play in the forwards.

    Good luck to the lad, its a short career that can end in an instant and he should absolutely get the most out of it he can both personally and financially.

  • Comment number 11.

    Rightly or wrongly most players will always follow the money with either a sport going professional (Union to league) or when a sport has a lot of money invested in it (League to Union). You have to make hay when the sun shines, players will do this by getting the best deal for them to play and teams & sports with opening more doors for funding either through the turnstyles, sponsorship and marketing.

    At the moment Union is progressing all the avenues to bring success to the sport, the profile of the sport is extremely high, clubs are based around the country so when youngsters see England play on TV they aren't too far from a club and try & enulate names such as Wilkinson. The BBC & Sky really push the product forward, dedicating hours to watching it (lets face it, the 6nations is the only decent regular live sport the BBC still show)

    One problem for Rugby league is it club focused, the premier titles are club league titles (NRL & SL) and club rugby is a very distant second.

    Ask a 100 English people from around the country to support Wigan and you'll get a lot smaller amount than if you asked a 100 English people to support England. Think this will be key to success of RL, build a national team that the country can get behind and not just rely on club teams to inspire a nation.

  • Comment number 12.

    Eastmond has made the right decision to move now - irrespective of whether moving ends up being the right decision - as he will be able to have a few years learning before being at his peak. I think that he would be best suited to a role at inside centre in union but only time will tell. The other issue to say is that he is by no means a shoe-in and may well find that the international honors don't follow as readily - a common reason for those returning to League - but at least he has time on his side.

    Just a final comment - much as I like Rugby League - I can remember the days of Gibbs, Quinell, Davies et al going the other way and there is perhaps a small element in me that thinks that RL has reaped what was sown in the George Hotel.

  • Comment number 13.

    @ Chris H (number 3)

    I'm pretty sure any rule designed to make money from a player that is out of contract would be illegal since the Bosman ruling (I assume it applies to all sports). The idea (I think) is to protect the players rather than let the clubs have total power. I guess that the problem in rugby (both codes) is likely to be less than it was in football (massive clubs owned by massive business) but I suppose the principle stays the same - free movement of labour.

  • Comment number 14.

    Sinfield is an immaculate player and a respectable person. and you can see the loyalty that he puts in through his performances. just on one note before i mention the Eastmond saga. There's only one player in my mind that you could refer to as the 'Ryan Giggs' of league, and that man is Kieron Cunningham. but thats another matter :)

    As for Eastmond, i fully expect his to come back to league just as pryce, smith and walker did, doing the walk of shame and having to work even harder to make up for their disloyalty. if eastmond really wanted to challenge himesf, then why not 3 years super league, then try his look at the nrl. people such as morley and burgess who have done it and made names down under, look at their status's, they practically are celerities in the game, and people have more RESPECT for players like this. its a shame that the money has spoken to eastmond, lets hope he can be a professional and put in 9 months of good performances for the saints.

  • Comment number 15.

    The reality is that this is pure economics.

    For some people, "maximisers", they will place more account on the return they can gain than "satisfisers" who place less stock on the return, and a higher stock on happiness, security etc.

    Sinfield should be admired for his desire at a younger age to achieve certain goals in RL before crossing over, and his latter decision to place other things in his life, and a respect for a different sport, ahead of pure monetary gain. Eastmond, similarly, is a young man who is giving himself the time to adapt and learn the new sport. We should not criticise someone for making the most of their talents, and indeed he will still serve as an example of a local lad who has made good through sport, which will in turn inspire others. Sinfield has been a classic example of a "satisfiser" while Eastmond is a "maximiser". Neither one is better or worse than the other, they are simply different.

    The economic issue that is disappointing is the harsh fact that Rugby League, the sport I love and am involved in on a daily basis, does not generate sufficient returns to reward its participants to an extent that the financial motivation to cross codes is removed. If this were so, then the only reason for someone to move would be to prove themselves in a new environment, which is a trait often attractive to someone who is naturally competitive. Even the NRL is not as financially lucrative as Rugby Union, and when you add the complexities of moving halfway across the world, away from family and friends support networks, I can understand why the attractiveness of challenging themselves in the premier club league in the sport might still not be enough to sway many players.

    As others have pointed out, RL struggles to get 20,000 to Test Matches, when Twickenham is packed to the rafters for comparatively meaningless friendlies. Marketing firms, and blue chip sponsors want to attach household names to their products, and Rugby League does not have that profile.

    I respect Chev Walkers comments, and would not begrudge that one bit, however from a personal point of view, when things seem pushed or forced, rather than happening organically it doesn't capture my attention in the same way, so I think the way that players are marketed needs to be very carefully done. The most successful ones for me are cases where the brand is the individual (a la Beckham, Jordan) and not the sport - let people make that association naturally. For this reason, I think the continued existence (and success) of Quins is crucial - if there is any way for a major national/international brand to pick up on RL players as the face of their product, having access to markets in London and across the country will be crucial. Simply, a familiar figure along the M62 corridor but to no one else does not attract marketing men as much as a national household figure. Someone who can be seen playing in London a couple of times a year is more likely to be of interest.

    I do not profess to have the answers - this is a complex issue - however this may be a case of for the mid to long terms betterment of the game (by which I include strength of competition, thus keeping or attracting the best players) being served best by accepting a reduced tv contract in order to get regular mainstream terrestrial coverage. Of course, that might (or likely would) send many clubs to the wall before any benefits could be obtained, but the national coverage, to a probable larger tv audience, would be the quickest way to make RL players household names, and through the players raise the profile of the game.

  • Comment number 16.

    Last week, 30-year-old Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield signed a new contract to stay at Headingley for the rest of his professional career. This week, 21-year-old St Helens scrum-half Kyle Eastmond decided to join Bath rugby union. I find the respective career choices of both players fascinating.

    Really? I find them pretty predictable. Sinfield could have made a very good Union player, he has all the skills and physicla attributes, but of course he came through at a time where making that switch was unusual and making it successfully practically unheard of. To think he might switch now in the twighlight of a career is stupid.

    Eastmond however at 21 has time on his side to learn the new game and make it work.

  • Comment number 17.

    i think we should stop playing the loyalty card. league spent 100 years getting union players to make the switch.

    its also interesting that ryan giggs' loyalty was mentioned, when he actually came through the ranks at manchester city before alex ferguson poached him. martin offiah was also mentioned--- he started out in union before being signed up.

    anyway, the bottom line is that players want to earn plenty of money and want to play in front of big crowds in big competitions. union offers that, league doesnt. instead of getting upset about it, lets try and improve league and get more crowds and money into the sport.

  • Comment number 18.

    "What I have found in the past, with players like Andy Farrell & Henry Paul, they should have tested themselves at the highest level in League. That means playing in the NRL. Trying to win a premiership. They never d
    did that." SouthsNZ

    Neither did Jason Robinson and he became one of the most successful League to Union converts ever - winning a RU world cup in the process.

  • Comment number 19.

    "What I have found in the past, with players like Andy Farrell & Henry Paul, they should have tested themselves at the highest level in League. That means playing in the NRL. Trying to win a premiership. They never d
    did that." SouthsNZ

    Neither did Jason Robinson and he became one of the most successful League to Union converts ever - winning a RU world cup in the process.

  • Comment number 20.

    Sorry don't quite get this article, there is nothing to comapre between these two players, one is just beginning his career one is virtually finished. Yes Sinfield goes on about loyalty but I am sure that if he got his first offer for union now and was the same age as eastmond then maybe he might have thought twice. 10 years ago Union had no money where as league had most of the money, but league is has not pushed on and developed manly because it is a northern sport and not national.

  • Comment number 21.

    Much as I am a league fan on the club stage, top-class international union is where it as with the oval ball. Sure, club rugby union is popular, but at many clubs (Leeds, Wigan, Hull FC, Saints) crowds are comparable to all but a couple of the top union clubs.
    Money is of course at the root of it, but who wouldn't want to play on the international union stage, even if it is a distant and vague ambition? League can't compete at the highest level, and I can't blame Eastmond for wanting a bit of the fame (yes, and fortune) the likes of Jason Robinson and now Chris Ahston are experiencing?
    Sorry league, you just can't compete on both levels. Good luck Kyle and be another annoyingly good thorn in the side of the patronising 'Middle England' section of union's fanbase.

  • Comment number 22.


    You mention loyalty and ‘the walk of shame’ back to the Super League and then you suggest he moves to the NRL! How is this displaying anymore ‘loyalty’ than moving to Bath? He won’t be helping improve the standard of the SL and will ultimately be lost to the fans in this country. He may still be available for international matches but to me international RL is a bit of a nonentity.

  • Comment number 23.

    I love the fact there is still an enormous amount of sentiment and emotion when discussing topics such as this. The fact is, a young lad has chosen to change career. Simple as that. Its always easy for a club to harp on about giving people chances, but St Helens are unlikely to turn down the opportunity of signing an up and coming star from another club because 'it would be disrespectful to take a player from someone else's academy'.

    What nonsense. If he wants to go and try his hand at Union, so be it - if he reaches the top of this sport, he would be playing on much bigger stages, in front of many more people, and earning a lot more money.

    That is ambition.

    If he can't handle it like the majority of rugby leaguers who think Union is easy then he will be back in league in no time.

    And as for those who think wing play is all about standing on the flanks freezing cold - knows very very little about Rugby Union.

  • Comment number 24.

    Tinoflyer wrote:
    "And as for those who think wing play is all about standing on the flanks freezing cold - knows very very little about Rugby Union. "

    Well, Chris Ashton knows that if he did then he wouldn't have half the try tally he now holds.

  • Comment number 25.

    What's with the obsession with talking about another sport on your blog every week? Funnily enough most RL fans support RL and want to read about that game. Not about RU. We're a strong, succesful sport in our own right. Some sports are bigger, some are smaller. I couldnt care less about RU. can we please focus on our own sport for once?

  • Comment number 26.

    Agree with other posters that Sinfield is too old to switch now (though Gareth Thomas has done a good job at Crusaders after switching the other way late) but loyalty in professional sport is a rare thing so I commend his sense of duty.

    As for EAStmond well I'm disappointed to see another great young player leave League but wish him all the best at Bath. The League production line will still roll on and replace him though.

  • Comment number 27.

    Another emotive RL/RU debate......can't see Eastmond being a big hit - can't find a natural RU position for him really. Sinfield has made the very best of his ability and would have struggled in RU. I am a leaguie through and through but also watch RU if its on......watched the first twenty minutes of Leicester v Saracens today - almost constant whistle from the ref - played and reffed well not a bad game to watch but not a patch on RL.

  • Comment number 28.

    What the cross code switching to RU highlights is the poor judgement of RU recruitment people. Apart from Jason Robinson, who has really made it?
    It seems they look for a name and then recruit.
    Andy Farrell was the biggest name, but right at the end of his career and suffering all sorts of injuries.
    Lee Smith won the Harry Sunderland Trophy for [one] superb performance.
    He came back to RL, as did Chev Walker. Andy Farrell simply earned a nice retirement package from how many performances?
    The old adage of 'More money than sense,' seems appropriate.
    RL recruiters made a number of bloomers, but also a string of successes: I remember Lewis Jones, Bev Risman, Watkins, Van Vollenhoven and Ray French! At a pre-international level, there are still ex RU players coming to RL.
    I don't blame anybody taking the money, if it's offered.

  • Comment number 29.

    #18 & #19:

    I am well aware Jason Robinson had a successful Rugby career & won a world cup.

    However, he didn't play in the NRL.

    Which in my opinion, and many others, is the ultimate oval ball comp.

    That's my point.

  • Comment number 30.

    Almost a decade between these two players. Where's the surprise? You go where the money is in a recession. That's the way of the world. Will be very interesting to see how Eastmond fares. He's known as 'The Porsche' behind the scenes. Pretty to look at and runs well when fixed, but spends a lot of time in the garage. Is this why the move to Union? Easy, fast money before it's too late? Sporting careers are such a fleeting, finite thing.

  • Comment number 31.

    I don't see any reason why a player shouldn't move across, like Eastmond is doing. You can't blame him for being tempted by the money that his talent deserves, and the greater media attention that union's much bigger international scene brings. Sinfield's loyalty is admirable, and I'm sure he too would have been a success in union, but that is not to criticise the Saints player.

    As soon as union finally had the sense to go professional in '96, the prospect of the present situation was there, and is one of the reasons for us falling even further behind the Southern Hemisphere. Not only do we no longer get some of the best union players (nearly always Welsh), but we also lose some of our greatest prospects in the opposite direction; and there's nothing that can be done about it!

    As a league fan I'm naturally disappointed when we lose outstanding English players, but it's always exciting to watch their progress in the other code. I was delighted to see Robinson's success, and now Ashton's. I can see Eastmond playing a very similar role to either of these two players, just as effectively. Ashton has his limitations, but has brought a new dimension to union three-quarter play with his typically league style of backing up at pace.

    As for Eastmond's series of injuries lately, a lot of nonsense, in my opinion, has been spoken. Players can simply go through very unlucky patches. Kieron Cunningham, for example. hardly played for a whole season, but I don't think anyone would now suggest that his body had an inherent weakness.

  • Comment number 32.


    Just cause Robinson chose to go to Union doesn't mean he took the easier option. Okay he never played in the NRL but no doubt he would have been a success - he was wherever he went. I think he played opposite Tuqiri and Sailor in International Rugby and in the World Cup Final who also took the option to go to Union and they were possibly the best wingers in the NRL at the time - he didn't do too badly against them...but its all pie in the sky as we'll never know how he would have done in the NRL or the Super 15's if he'd have gone there, we can only comment on where he actually played, and he was pretty damn good !!!

  • Comment number 33.

    @ the calvinator

    Sinfield as an acedemy player was very highly sort by the RFU (as was Leon Pryce who I believe even played some England Schools) but chose Leeds & League. Wether or not his natural attributes would have found a natural position in Union (or at least enough to be world class) or even if he'd have the patience to play the game at it's comparative slowness to League is up for debate (I'd say no). What is clear though is that he said he wanted achieve something in League before considering his options to move to Union and again as he mentions now that he has that ships apparantly sailed.

    "Loyalty" isn't really an issue in any professional sport or organisation really. There's a lot of factors in the mix as far as loyalty's concerned yes money's a big part as is the lifestyle and support both form the club and supporters but glory's as big if bigger a part. I agree 100% in that league's profile makes it a massivley less appealing for a player, if not necessarily an already established player then at least a youngster still uncomitted to either code. It's easy to point to a Ryan Giggs or Sinfield who where spoiled for all of the above as examples of loyalty's easier to turn down a few extra 0's when all the other boxes are ticked.

  • Comment number 34.

    @Chris H

    I don't think raising the salary cap is the answer as I think I'm right in saying that Saints made Eastmond an offer every bit as good as Bath's and obviously within the current cap. Raise the cap too far and you defeat the very object of it in the first place. I'm not convinced that there's oodles of money sloshing around in union. Eastmond has presumably moved due to the lure of international RU and fair play to him. I'm personally gutted as I wanted to see him and Sam Tomkins develop their half-back partnership for England over many years.

    I do like Chev Walker's point a lot. I'd take it further and just say that the RFL are really not making a good enough fist of promoting the sport, although neither are they backed up by a hugely-receptive media. We really could use some kind of svengali figure with a bit of swagger and connections in the right places to get these fantastic athletes the wider public recognition they deserve. Any ideas?

  • Comment number 35.

    Souths NZ. O dear, someone is believing the hype the NRL generates down there. It's all subjective, I think the NRL is good but a bit of a myth. Origin, in my opinion, is the best rugby game you’ll find in either code and English imports can't play in it so why bother. Don't discount the toughness of Union.... Sailor and Tuqiri are superstars down there and let’s face it didn't set the Union world on fire. Robinson was class in both codes which to me is a greater achievement then playing park football in Sydney.

  • Comment number 36.

    It's only ever outside backs that make the transition from one code to the other with any degree of success, it seems to me. The forward play is so different in each code and half backs barely see the ball in RU. Eastmond - as a clever ball-handler - is in for a frustrating time in union for me.

  • Comment number 37.

    Sellis82 - I've watched & also prepared pitches for both professional Rugby & League. Worked in both hemispheres.

    In my opinion, the NRL is the best club comp (Rugby or League) in the world. 26 rounds then play off football. Excellent standard ball in hand footy evenly split in a 16 team comp policed by a strict salary cap.

    Any football who wins a premiership, will tell you how hard it is.

    I enjoy it very much & would recommend it rather than a trip to Bath as Eastmond, and previously Robinson, has chosen.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and that's mine.

  • Comment number 38.

    Lote Tuqiri was considered as one of, if not their best back, for the Wallabies throughout his Rugby career. And he's doing a pretty good job back in League with the Tigers.

    I would question your judgement.

  • Comment number 39.

    Sellis82, what do you mean, 'believing the hype'? You've only to watch NRL to see how obviously superior it is to Super League, and Origin's intense competitiveness only exists because of the large number of outstanding players that their league produces. 'Park football in Sydney' indeed!

    Having said that, SouthsNZ, I don't see why a player has to play in the NRL - there's no obligation. It doesn't stop Robinson from being one of the finest players in both codes.

    As I suggested, I'm looking forward to Eastmond doing well in union, but find it depressing that we're going to lose more players of his calibre in future.

  • Comment number 40.

    "Eastmond has presumably moved due to the lure of international RU and fair play to him."

    This is what Eastmond has said himself. He repeated it on Granada Reports (local ITV news) tonight. He told us that he has wanted to play union for a while but didn't think he would get the chance, that union is a bigger sport and that is what attracts him. However, he's going to give 100% to Saints while he's still with us; blah, blah, blah!

    He doesn't come across well on TV, I hope he knows that. And he's certainly not encouraged Saints fans to think well of him by taking up that interview. But then with an ego the size of his, I'm sure he won't be at all bothered!

  • Comment number 41.

    comebackdevils: I'm not suggesting any player has to play in the NRL. I'm just saying that all the players from that great Wigan era went on to try Rugby rather than test themselves in the NRL.

    Apart from the lifestyle change, you never hear of an ex League player who says they prefer to play Rugby. Whereas the other way around, there have been plenty of Rugby players that went to League, and now prefer that game: Davies, Devereux, Gibbs, Ridge & Ellis to name but a few...


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