Typically, when I’m introduced to people, they’ll mention that I played for the Brisbane Broncos.
It’s true. I played five matches (and sat on the bench for the entirety of another, which doesn’t count) in 2009.
It was an incredible experience and I’m grateful I earned the opportunity.
But, to be honest, it makes me a little uncomfortable.
For years, I was embarrassed that I didn’t play more.
You get five, so you’d think you’d be able to get a few more – but that’s the way it goes.
I found out late in the season that I wasn’t in the club’s future plans and I tried my best elsewhere, but I was unable to secure another NRL contract.
Over the years, I’ve learned to be prouder of this achievement.
I wasn’t a schoolboy star – I was good at a local level, but I wasn’t the best player in my junior club team.
I wasn’t the best player for the Central Queensland Comets at the time I was approached by then Broncos coach Ivan Henjak about doing the 2009 preseason with the club.
But I persevered and worked hard to earn a Broncos jersey and did my best with that opportunity.
I also played 234 Intrust Super Cup matches, which does not attract quite the same attention.
I’m sure when I first decided to look into playing in France or the UK, the first thing that caught potential clubs’ attention was that I’d played in the NRL for the Broncos.
It wasn’t the fact that I’d played all but one match (I burned my hand in a cooking accident and missed one match in 2009) in the past six Intrust Super Cup seasons.
They weren’t concerned it was only five matches. It was the NRL, this bloke must be good.
Sometimes, I wonder whether I would’ve earned the opportunity to play rugby league for as long as I had, saw some of the world, forged a short career as a sports journalist, and then found opportunities as a high school teacher if it wasn’t for those five matches.
I’m grateful for those opportunities, but, in a way, I’m disappointed the 234 Intrust Super Cup matches don’t count for more.
Souths Logan Magpies forward Phil Dennis surpassed the record for Intrust Super Cup matches when he reached 271 last season; but I’m sure plenty who don’t know better would say, ‘But he didn’t play in the NRL, so he can’t be that good of a player.’
I am full of admiration for what Phil has achieved in his career in the Intrust Super Cup.
His hair is greying and his body is held together with plenty of strapping tape, but he’s still as sharp as ever between the ears.
He was playing in a BRL In Safe Hands match the other day against Valleys Diehards at Noffke Farm Park and bamboozled the defence with his ball-playing skills.
Some were surprised at his ability to do what he did at that level.
You don’t play the number of games he has played in the Intrust Super Cup level without some ability – and Phil has plenty of it.
He’s also shown enormous amounts of commitment, courage, and delivered plenty of hard work over the years.
I remember at a mate’s wedding in Sydney and Wyong Roos pair Mitch Williams and Brock Molan were sharing their views on the Intrust Super Cup.
They both said they felt that long-standing players were held in higher regard in the Intrust Super Cup than they were in the New South Wales Cup competition.
While technically the same level, they said the NSW Cup was seen as a stepping stone to the NRL and, if you didn’t make it into the top level, you weren’t much of a player.
The perception was that you really hadn’t “made it” as a rugby league player, despite playing 100-150 NSW Cup matches.
It’s probably a big part of the reason why XXXX Queensland Residents dominate their southern counterparts in the annual clash.
The Intrust Super Cup is not a stepping stone.
To play one Intrust Super Cup match is an achievement. To play 100 is extraordinary.
Congratulations to Norths Devils player Connor Broadhurst (pictured above) who is set to play his 100th Intrust Super Cup match on Sunday against Redcliffe Dolphins.
St Brendan’s College is an all-boys secondary school in Yeppoon renowned for its rugby league program.
Their alma mater includes Ben Hunt, Matt Scott, Corey Oates and Jake Granville.
For the most part, they have a red-hot team and dominate the Rockhampton Schoolboys Rugby League competition.
Many of their First XIII players are touted as future stars and are signed to NRL clubs while at school.
However, very few of them play a single match in the Intrust Super Cup or at a higher level.
I understand plenty of them find trades, head back home to the farm and work, or pursue career paths unrelated to rugby league.
For those who pursue a career in rugby league, they soon realise the commitment, decisions, perseverance, and hard work required to play in the Intrust Super Cup.
Added to that, many of the them work 40 or more hours a week.
Norths Devils second rower Brendan Frei is a roofer, who spends the best part of eight hours in the hot sun and then turns up to training three nights a week.
He applies himself, and isn’t the only one to do so.
Former Norths Devils and Wests Panthers coach Wayne Treleavan put the challenge of tackling work and part-time rugby league commitments better than most.
“As a coach, sometimes you don’t have anything to give them after a day at work and sometimes they haven’t got anything to give you.”
Each week, there are players who turn up after a long day at work to play alongside and opposite those who are in full-time NRL systems.
On many occasions, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Standing beside a fulltime NRL contracted player on a $300,000 salary is your part-timer collecting $3000 a season.
It’s a credit to the competition that players can move between the NRL and the Intrust Super Cup and not look out of place in either competition.
More credit is due to the players who feature in the Cup competition every weekend.
There are far better players than me who have played in the Intrust Super Cup, but haven’t got a start at an NRL club.
I admire what they do each week.
It's a high-quality competition with high quality players. Get out this weekend and see for yourself.