PLAYER TESTIMONIALS still have an important place in rugby league, Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington says.
Long-serving prop Ryan Bailey will be the latest Rhinos star to have a benefit game when London Broncos visit Headingley Carnegie tomorrow night.
The game is the first major event in a year-long testimonial to mark Bailey’s 12 years in Rhinos’ senior side and Hetherington has urged fans to turn out in force.
Wages have risen dramatically since testimonials were introduced to reward the loyalty of part-time players, but Hetherington insisted they are still appropriate in the modern game.
He said: “It is a short career and many players have not been trained to do anything else when it finishes.
“It is a big transition and what the proceeds of a testimonial can do is significantly help with that transition from finishing their playing career to the next part of their life.
“That’s particularly so in Ryan Bailey’s case.
“He will be having a full year of events and the money generated won’t really be used until he is coming to the end of his time at the club.
“It will help to fund the next part of his life.”
Hetherington added: “A successful testimonial relies heavily on the success of the game and we are hoping our fans will come out and show their support on Friday.
“Ryan is an example of a player who is fully deserving of a testimonial. He has given very loyal service for 12 years, he is a local lad and he wasn’t a teenage star.
“He has achieved what he has through determination and dedication and he has been a big part of the Rhinos team.
“He has been the backbone of the team in many ways and he has never given less than 100 per cent in every game.”
Bailey has a bad-boy reputation, but Hetherington insisted he deserves to be regarded as one of the club’s greats. The former Milford Marlins junior has played in all Rhinos’ six Grand Final wins and is only nine appearances short of 300 for Leeds.
“His background is different to some of the players who’ve had testimonials in the last few years,” Hetherington said.
“Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield were all teenage stars with a good education and a traditional upbringing.
“Ryan has had challenging times in his life and Leeds Rhinos have been good for him.He has had to use his talent very productively and it’s great credit to him that he has done that.”
Leeds rhinos RYAN BAILEY testimonial line-up: Hardaker, Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Sinfield, Peacock, Burrow, Bailey, Delaney, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan. Subs: Aiton, Singleton, Leuluai, Achurch, Jones-Bishop, Clarkson, Sutcliffe.