Sam Thaiday glad there's still loyalty in the game
SAM Thaiday has always been big on loyalty.
A 15-year career with the Brisbane Broncos, including 260-plus NRL appearances, is testament to that commitment.
Even when clubs south of the border came calling with cheque book open.
Thaiday was approached with enticing offers "a couple of times, early in my career".
"In my first big season of playing representative football (2006) there was a lot of opportunity to go down south," he recalls to News Regional Media.
"But, I've always had that loyalty about me. I made sure I stayed with the one club.
"That's what I brought with me down from Townsville, loyalty."
Not a week goes by now when another big-name NRL player signs with a rival club, James Tedesco the latest.
And while Thaiday resisted the temptation, he understands why one-club players are becoming a thing of the past.
"It is the way the system is set up," he said. "It is so hard now to be a loyal player.
"With all these salary caps, with some of these Sydney clubs offering so much money, it's hard not to take it up. I understand that.
"I'm one of the blessed ones to have had a long career, but it doesn't last forever. It's only a short period of time in your life. You have to make as much money as you can, make sure you set your life up for you and your family."
Thaiday, 31, and current skipper Darius Boyd are the last Broncos standing from the 2006 NRL grand final win over the Storm. Though Boyd has gone to the Dragons and Knights and come back.
Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater remain with the Storm from their 2006 premiership-decider line-up, but then-teammates Adam Blair (now with the Broncos) and Greg Inglis (Rabbitohs) have switched allegiances.
"Over the years I've had a lot of really good mates who have either left the club or retired now," Thaiday said.
"I've still got a year and half to go in my career.
"I count myself blessed, really lucky to have had the opportunity over a long long period of time.
"I think that's why I'm encouraging of all these young guys who come to the club, make sure they're doing the right things so they can have a long career in the NRL as well."
What goes around comes around, and Thaiday is now the beneficiary of Mal Meninga's loyalty, the Australian coach and long-time Maroons mentor having selected the veteran prop in the Kangaroos' line-up to tackle the Kiwis in Canberra tonight. It will be his 32nd international after missing the Four Nations final in England last year.
"This was probably one I wasn't overly confident about. I'm getting a bit older ... you question what they want to do with the team, make it a bit more fresh," he said.
"In saying that, my end goal this year was to go really well with the Broncos, hopefully get us back in the grand final, but also to play in the World Cup at the end of the year."
Thaiday made his Kangaroos debut in 2006 alongside fellow Broncos Petero Civoniceva, Justin Hodges and Darren Lockyer (captain), and a young Smith and Johnathan Thurston.
"It shows that Mal is very loyal to his players who have done stuff for him for many, many years," he said.
"Mal first selected me for a Queensland team when I was 21 (and) there was probably a few question marks on Mal when he did that. But he had a vision and a goal in mind when he tried to restart the Queensland spirit again.
"That Queensland team had a few older players ... I'm at the stage in my career now where I'm one of those ageing players. But, I'm very, very happy ... grateful I was selected again. There may not be too many more of these to come in my career."