By Patrick Avenell
SYDNEY: With the early March sun setting over the Sydney Football Stadium’s hallowed turf, the Sydney Roosters rugby league team goes through the drills and skill work that coach Brad Fittler hopes will propel them to the top this season. On the sideline, just out of the race, the club’s major sponsor, Samsung, is entertaining retailers, business partners and young fans.
This was last night, and although the Roosters looked patchy at times, and some of their biggest stars sat out the session, it was definitely a big thrill for the young kids — and some of the bigger kids — that had made the trek to Moore Park. Among those that came from work, rather than school, were representatives of Bing Lee and The Good Guys, two of Samsung’s closest retail partners.
Currently out of action after a knee reconstruction, ubiquitous Roosters forward Willie Mason kicked off the event with a Q and A session on the sideline. He speech was surprisingly eloquent considering the bad press he receives, and he was clearly a very popular player with the youngsters.
Mason fielded questions about training techniques (mostly skills training at the moment), when he’ll return (hopefully against Souths in Round 1), and whether he still gets back to Toronto (he used to a lot, but the locals won’t let him be anymore).
Big Willie soon became distracted by the sausage sizzle, and with coach Fittler struggling to retain players’ concentration in the midst of such growing revelry, training was abandoned and the players joined the assembled throng for a barbeque.
Although the lifestyle of a professional footballer is lauded as a privilege, it must become tedious to attend corporate events for the benefit of sponsors. Considering this, credit must go to the players for being so enthusiastic, or at least for so convincingly feigning it, because they seemed genuinely interested in mingling with Samsung’s guests.
After an hour of eating, drinking and signature collecting, a minute’s worth of torrential rain signaled the end of the event. The players looked relieved to be able to get away from training and back to the XBox, the guests looked happy having met their heroes (though not me, I go for St George Illawarra), and the Samsung team was pleased to have provided its business partners with an afternoon’s entertainment.
Although Samsung is still celebrating Melbourne Victory’s win in the A-League Grand Final last Sunday night, representitives yesterday confirmed the company would not be renewing that major sponsorship agreement.