Raider with the biggest heart

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If the NRL was serious, it would appoint Alan Tongue as a full-time ambassador for the code, says TIM GAVEL

SOME people are not playing sport for the right reasons, but I guess that is what it has become – a big business and the players are convinced that they have a short amount of time to get as much out of it as possible.

Loyalty often flies out the window and it is for that reason people, such as retiring Raiders’ captain Alan Tongue, shine like beacons.

If there was a way to provide Tongue’s DNA to every young player coming through, there would be no scandals, the media would have little to report about off-field bad behaviour, and there would be little public talk about players wanting more money because they only have a limited time in the game!

The NRL could do worse than use his moral compass to guide young players through the perils of the code and instill a set of values that will help them, not only while they are playing, but throughout their lives.

Alan’s work ethic emanates from his life on the family farm, where hard work is a way of life.

As we all know, his football career has flourished, but not without hurdles.

I remember when he was told that his size could be a problem; he responded by simply working and training harder than anybody else.
He trained so hard that he became the benchmark for how hard players needed to train if they were serious about getting the best out of themselves; he showed others how to make the most of an opportunity. Alan Tongue is not the biggest player, but certainly the one with the biggest heart.

In the end, enough was enough; he wanted to make sure that he was going to be capable of doing what all fathers love to do with their young children and not be hampered by chronic arthritis and constant pain.

In this day and age, professional footballers are forever talking about their market-value and how much they can get out of the game, and their managers work towards increasing their price.

Alan Tongue doesn’t have a manager. When he went to speak to Raiders CEO Don Furner about re-signing for another couple of seasons, it wasn’t a drawn-out process. He said he knew what he was worth; he wasn’t going to be greedy and he wasn’t going to haggle.
In announcing his retirement, Alan said it had been a privilege to play; an honour to play for the Raiders, and to cap it off, said that the game owed him nothing and he owed the game everything.

Wouldn’t you like to hear that every now and again from a few more professional sportspeople?

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Tim Gavel
Journalist and ABC sports broadcaster

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