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Swapping Steedens For Shovels: Sports Stars Are Back In The 'Real World'

Canberra star John Bateman spoke for every out-of-work footballer when he cried out for the return of sport... so he can escape the rigours of life in the 'real world'.

The Raiders forward is like many professional sportsman caught in the coronavirus shutdown, swapping a Steeden for a shovel to keep active and help pay the bills.

"First ever day grafting , I’m done with it!! Give me rugby (league) back please," the big Englishman tweeted.

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Over at the Roosters, premiership-winning forwards Jake Friend and Victor Radley are making take-away flat whites and ham and cheese toasties for customers at Sydney's High St Society cafe.

Friend has also found time to start his own plumbing business, setting him up for life after football.

Other footballers have returned to the land, with Sydney Swans defender Will Gould giving fans an insight into his daily chores via his popular On the Farm video diary.

None of the 'out of work' sports stars are complaining about their lot, especially with so many around the world doing it a lot tougher. But it wasn't that long ago sportsmen and women regularly worked jobs to supplement their meagre contracts.

There was no such thing as a full-time player.

Manly, NSW and Australian rugby league great Noel "Crusher" Cleal famously fronted for work as a garbage collector just hours after helping the Blues to a State of Origin win over Queensland in the late 1980s.

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"It’s just what you did back then. I didn’t really think twice about it," he told 10 daily.

"I would have got home around midnight and been up at 3 am to get ready to begin the run at four.

"Most days we would finish at 11 am. I'd come home, have a shower and play with the kids and then sometimes go and do a shift driving a gravel truck in the afternoon.

"It'd then be off to training. So it would be start work at 4 am and get home from training at 9 pm."

And then play 80 minutes of one of the most physically demanding sports in the world on weekends.

"I'd hit the wall some days," Crusher admits. "But I had three kids under two. You just had to keep going."

He isn't alone.

Olympic sprinter Melinda Gainsford-Taylor sold shoes in a sports store while competing and training to take on the world's best.

Cricketer Gavin Robertson played four Tests for Australia and made 58 first class appearances for Tasmania and NSW during the late 80s into the 90s. He recalls finishing a Sheffield Shield game one day and resuming work at a supermarket the next.

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"You didn’t really have the option of saying 'I won't be in today'," he explained.

"You might have bowled 40, 50, 60 overs -- and had a few beers if you’d won -- but you were still expected to get out of bed to work the next day.

"There were still bills to pay. Plus, you didn’t want to let the boss down who had been doing the right thing by you."

Bateman and his sporting contemporaries are finding out how hard it can be working the tools, day in, day out.

And the bad news is they may be slogging it out for a long time to come, with our major codes likely to be in shutdown for several more months.

But Cleal backs the players to adapt quickly.

"The training in our day wasn't nearly as solid as it today," he points out.

"I think these guys will be alright. They've got a good work ethic and the discipline is built into them.

"They will put in for you."