For love, not money
By STEVE SPINKS
THE NSW Country Origin rugby league team played in front of a packed house of 9000 people at Oakes Oval, Lismore, earlier this month.
They had a team of helpers that almost outnumbered the players.
While staying in Ballina, the league players were mobbed by starstruck adults and children alike.
Their training sessions drew big crowds.
What a difference it was watching the NSW Country rugby union team in Ballina yesterday.
The Cockatoos, who will play Perth in the Australian Rugby Shield (ARS) at Oakes Oval today, sauntered into town unknown.
While training at Quays Reserve they were watched by two interested Ballina rugby officials and a dog.
No autograph hunters, no media scrum, no team of helpers.
And that's the way the elite amateurs like it, according to No8 Darren Dimmock.
"We don't do it for the money," the Maitland back-rower said.
"We do it for the memories.
"Like when you bump into a former team-mate 20 years down the track and talk about the team."
It's a big contrast, but money is the main difference.
NSW Country players in the Australian Rugby Shield don't get paid, although flights and accommodation around Australian are subsidised.
But don't think it's easy fitting in football and full-time work.
Many of these footballers are taking their annual holidays to play in the ARS.
"During the campaign, which goes for six to seven weeks, you probably lose about three weeks from work all up," Dimmock said.
Dimmock is a printer who works in the family business.
"I take unpaid leave, put it that way," he chuckled. "The old man is not that bad a bloke."
When the 28-year-old back-rower takes on Perth today it won't be the first time he's played on Oakes Oval.
He played for the NSW Country Under-17s in a curtain-raiser to the NSW Country v Ireland match in 1994.
Since then, Dimmock has had stints with the Newcastle Wildfires in the Sydney grade competition before returning to bush footy with Maitland and representative rugby with NSW Country.
There won't be a crowd of 9000 people at Oakes Oval today.
But that doesn't matter to Dimmock and his mates.
The main game kicks off at 3pm with the curtain-raisers between Southern Cross University and Lismore City starting from 10.45am.
Cost of entry is $10 for adults.