Money louder than rep jerseys: Fittler - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Money louder than rep jerseys: Fittler

By David Beniuk 10/07/2008 06:15:09 PM Comments (0)

Sydney Roosters coach Brad Fittler has demolished the NRL's argument that the lure of State of Origin football will stop players switching codes and heading to Europe.

With player agents warning 20-30 NRL stars could be playing rugby union in Europe within three years, league legend Fittler disputed one of the NRL's mantras - players will stay loyal for less money so they can play State of Origin and Test football.

Asked on Thursday whether the lure of a representative jersey would be enough to keep players in the NRL, former Kangaroo and NSW Origin star Fittler was emphatic: "No, money," he said.

Fittler's comments also came as reports suggested St George Illawarra superstar Mark Gasnier was closing in on a deal with a French rugby club, either the Ewen McKenzie-coached Stade Francais or Biarritz.

Former Test winger Luke Rooney has already agreed to join ex-Penrith team-mate Craig Gower playing the 15-man game in France, linking with big-spending Toulon for a reported $600,000 a season.

Gower has agreed to a new three-year deal with Bayonne.

Asked if it disappointed him that representative jerseys could mean less to players than euros, Fittler said: "No, it disappoints me that we haven't been able to play on a similar ground to some of the other teams that are offering the higher money.

"I don't think the government helps these days, your tax brackets and deductions and all that sort of stuff.

"Financially it's hard to set yourself up so why would you blame a bloke going over to France and make more money and put less harm on his body?"

Fittler sees a glimmer of hope in players' preference for league as a game, saying he would never have contemplated a switch if offered the same big money.

"I would have said no," he said.

"Absolutely, because I love rugby league. I played rugby union and just didn't rock the boat.

"Each to their own. Everyone's driven by different things.

"Rugby league's a great game. I played rugby union only for a year or two and in my view it had nothing on rugby league.

"I played rugby league because I liked it. Most of them will do that.

"Nothing's changed in the last 15, 20 years to show me that the other sports are as demanding and challenging as rugby league so, if you want a challenge, stick with our game."

Elsewhere, Panthers captain Petero Civoniceva praised the NRL and Parramatta for their handling of the racism drama which resulted in a spectator being handed a five-year ban.

A fan racially taunted Civoniceva by aiming monkey chants at the big Fijian-born prop during Penrith's 22-16 win over the Eels at Parramatta Stadium last Sunday.

Two fans were identified in television footage on Tuesday and their details passed on to NSW Police, before the NRL banned one of the men.

"I respect the way the issue has been handled by all those involved," Civoniceva said in a brief statement.

"I also want to convey my appreciation of the support shown to me and my family by rugby league fans over the last week."

In contract news, Roosters captain Craig Fitzgibbon extended his deal with the club until the end of 2009, while Canberra re-signed fullback David Milne for a further three years.

Young Gold Coast halfback Josh Lewis agreed to a contract with NSW Cup side Balmain Tigers for 2009 and is eligible for promotion to NRL side Wests Tigers.

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