CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: Waters' cruel luck shows why it's wise to cash in
9:03am Thursday 22nd August 2013 in Sport
OVER the past few years clubs in France’s Top 14 have been labelled as vultures.
They have been painted as the bad guys, luring players to bolster their already bloated squads by offering silly money.
Perhaps instead it’s just a case of the French having a more realistic valuation of the best players in the world.
Rugby has lagged behind other professional sports for some time; it seems that players have been expected to have low wage demands simply because it was an amateur game not long ago.
But they live from short contract to short contract and for every Jonny Sexton, Dan Lydiate or Jamie Roberts earning big bucks at Racing Metro is a player struggling to make their way in the sport.
That they are being paid for doing something they love doesn’t mean they can be exploited and you don’t need to look far for case studies that give weight to the decisions of those that head for the Top 14.
It’s never nice to see a sportsman struck down by injury but some blows are especially galling.
Over the past week another hard luck story has been added to an already lengthy Newport Gwent Dragons list.
Darren Waters, whose 2012/13 was a write-off after rupturing knee ligaments in pre-season, suffered a recurrence of the injury in training.
He will be out until at least 2014 and it’s another campaign of playing catch-up for the all-action, wholehearted openside flanker.
It is cruel for a man who is desperate to prove himself as a professional player after working his way up through the ranks.
A former scrum-half with Beddau, Waters caught the eye with Pontypridd in the Premiership and earned a full-time deal at Rodney Parade.
He is a rough diamond but the 28-year-old has the attributes to be a success, most notably his hunger for the game.
It was that desire that helped him come back ahead of schedule last season and hopefully he will heal just as swiftly over the coming months.
The same can be said for affable winger Mike Poole, who earned a contract by starring for Newport but was released by the Dragons in the summer after being plagued by knee problems.
Former plumber Hywel Stoddart also saw his regional hopes go up in smoke after suffering a knee injury last season.
In these days of academy players following pathways, us mere mortals have a connection with those that go full-time later on in life.
Yet when they just want to prove themselves as pros they have cut frustrated figures on the sidelines.
The trio above are in the same bracket as former bricklayer Lloyd Burns, who famously went from Cross Keys to the Dragons to Wales in remarkable time.
A heart problem forced him to quit at the age of 27 while former Dragons prop Dan Watchurst had to hang up his boots at just 23.
The former Wales Under-20s captain was earmarked for great things and was by all accounts an impressive leader as well as talented player. A horror leg break meant he was unable to fulfil his potential.
It can be a cruel career and in the light of such stories it’s no wonder that those lucky enough to receive bumper offers opt to grasp the opportunity while it’s there.
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