Power Shifts: From League to Union

  • John Harris
Part of the Global Culture and Sport book series (GCS)


The great divide between league and union was often presented as a simplistic dichotomy of professionalism versus amateurism. This suited accounts that encompassed derogative descriptors of league and was applied in countries such as Wales and Australia to help explain periods of poor performances for the national XVs when they had lost many of their best players to the thirteen-man code. Yet in reality the differences and the divide were never as simple as this. As Tony Collins (1998, 2006) has detailed, many league players were given jobs by their clubs and had to supplement their income from the game with outside work. Few could earn enough just from the sport itself. Conversely, despite an expressed ideology of ‘amateurism’, a number of union players had always been well rewarded for their exploits on the field in the fifteen-man game. The Australian winger David Campese spent his winters playing for the Milan club in Italy long before the game went openly professional. In addition to his outstanding skills and outspoken personality, Campese was known for claiming to be the first millionaire rugby union player! Commentators had noted years before that his winters spent in Milan were not because of his love of spaghetti. There are numerous other cases of southern hemisphere players ‘wintering’ in Italy.


Rugby Player Rugby League Open Professionalization Rugby Union Power Shift 
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Copyright information

© John Harris 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Harris
    • 1
  1. 1.Kent State UniversityUSA

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