Paul Kent: Parramatta Eels show the Bulldogs why looking at the bigger picture is as important as winning footy games
PAUL KENT THE DAILY TELEGRAPH MARCH 11, 2015 12:00AM SHARE
WHEN it comes to short turnarounds, nobody knows the pressure time can bring better than the kids at The Children’s Hospital, Westmead.
They live in a world where their daily actions really are, far too often, matters of life and death.
They know all too well that what they have today could be gone tomorrow, and it could be everything. Second chances don’t always come around. ‘There’s always next week’ isn’t always a choice.
Yet for reasons we never seem to learn many of these kids could teach us a thing or two about what’s important.
They accept their plight with a matter-of-factness that staggers those of us who worry over looming deadlines, or interest rates, whether my God is better than your God.
Or wins on the football field.
Perhaps better than anybody they know life is to be sucked dry. That true joy is often the small things, laughter on cold afternoons, a hug from mum, or something as simple as an afternoon without real pain.
Rugby league has always been a strong supporter of sick kids.
The Charity Shield has been raising money for sick children since 1982.
Just last week Manly players visited children at Stewart House, which helps children who have a little less than most of us.
And this week Parramatta play Canterbury in what has in recent years become the Bandaged Bear Cup.
It will be the Bulldogs’ first home game and a cut from the gate will go to the hospital to help the children.
For very good reasons the Bulldogs wanted to publicise the game as broadly as possible. They thought back to what Parramatta did last year when it was the Eels’ home game and Parramatta asked if some Canterbury players could join them at the hospital. So the Bulldogs thought the best way to promote Friday’s Cup was to again get players together with the kids.
You have no idea how much the kids look forward to this.
Last year Tim Mannah joined Josh Reynolds and there, in real life, were full-blown NRL stars. This was laughter on a cold afternoon and a hug from mum all wrapped up in one.
So Canterbury called Parramatta and asked if the Eels would join them at the hospital.
The call from Canterbury came as a short inconvenience to Parramatta coach Brad Arthur. He was not expecting it, so he had Parramatta’s week all planned out.
There’s nothing new in that. Every club has a strict schedule depending on whether it is a five, six, seven, eight, nine or 10-day turnaround between games.
Never mind, Arthur changed the schedule.
So the Eels would have a full day training on Monday and have a lighter day on Tuesday, with players training at 12.30pm before going off for individual work or, for some, heading to the hospital.
Then Canterbury called back. The Bulldogs had changed plans.
Coach Des Hasler was worried, the Eels were told, about the short turnaround.
Given Canterbury played Penrith last Sunday and have just five days to get ready for Parramatta on Friday Hasler, the Eels were told, didn’t want his players going to the hospital.
Five days, he couldn’t spare a couple of hours.
The Eels were a little annoyed, mostly because they had shuffled their week to help out Canterbury and the Dogs now refused to be inconvenienced.
What they did not waiver on, though, was visiting the children.
On Tuesday Darcy Lussick, Semi Radradra and Tepai Moeroa headed to Westmead to visit the children without a Bulldog in sight.
Little Taleigha-Rose Musico has been quarantined this past week. She is four years old and was born with half a heart and when she got a virus, after surgery just before Christmas, there was nothing good about it.
Until the Eels turned up.
“She’s all dressed and excited,” mum Emma Musico said.
The Bulldogs have since said they might send a player later in the week and you can be sure they will after today, and will insist they always intended to.
But that doesn’t make it right. The game is important and winning is important, we all know that.
Of less consideration is rugby league is a game where parents entrust their children to NRL clubs from an early age, knowing the great influence clubs will have on their boys but letting them go anyway with a kiss and a hope that the club will not only continue developing them as footballers, but as young men.
On Tuesday, one club delivered on that unspoken promise.
They gave the kids at the hospital something they all need, a boost, and without even realising got a little something for themselves, too.