The Broncos, Maroons and Kangaroos must be
grateful that Darren Lockyer’s on-field timing is better than his off-field timing.

Yesterday morning, rugby league’s highest
profile players – Lockyer and Andrew Johns – got together for a photo shoot in
Sydney to promote the NRL’s commendable regional/rural promotional campaign
that will see 100 of the top players conduct clinics and goodwill visits to
around 40 cities and towns in Queensland and New South Wales, with even a
couple in Victoria.

At the launch, NRL CEO David Gallop
said he was certain the players would be good role models (ie not be
adversely affected by strong drink). It was all good PR – exactly what the game needs.

But the story was totally swamped on Brisbane and
regional Queensland television news last night by another Darren Lockyer story. And it
was one that must make Gallop wonder why he bothers.

Last night Lockyer and his business partner
opened yet another of his “beer bars” in suburban Brisbane, and the
pro-Broncos Brisbane media (notably Channel Ten on this occasion) gave his new business
venture the kind of exposure other liquor retailers could only dream of.

Ten News, after a short piece on the
Lockyer-Johns photo op, did its sports segment from Lockyer’s new bar – with
the Australian captain behind the bar rather sheepishly pulling beer for
customers as the background setting.

It turns out that Lockyer flew back from Sydney on the first
available flight for his bar opening – and the wholly favourable television coverage/saturation.

The NRL must long for a return to the good
old days when footballers owned, or worked in, sports goods stores.

But then again, it’s not that long ago that
many of the nation’s leading rugby league and cricket players worked as reps
for Benson and Hedges and Rothmans in their “spare” time.

Peter Fray

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