Packer a graduate of school of hard knocks

DEPARTING: Russell Packer will leave the Dragons to link with Wests Tigers in 2018. Picture: Adam McLean
DEPARTING: Russell Packer will leave the Dragons to link with Wests Tigers in 2018. Picture: Adam McLean

IT was a cold night in a wet Kogarah dressing shed last season when Russell Packer came and pulled up a seat next to your columnist.

It wasn’t for an interview, Kick-off just asked how he was after a tough loss – one of several the Dragons endured in 2016.

“I’ve had better days,” he said, “but I’ve had worse.”

It’s a small anecdote that says it all and illustrates why Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary has said Packer can turn around the culture at Concord when he arrives next season.

Cleary’s comments raised eyebrows in some quarters, but not from anyone who’s had anything to do with Packer at the Dragons.

It’s easy for players to be absorbed by the professional rugby league bubble but speak to any young player at the club and, to a man, they will cite Packer as the most influential leadership figure.

It’s why he’ll leave the club on good terms. No one knows more about the tough times Packer and his family endured than Dragons insiders.

They put the club's faith in him and have been repaid in spades. That’s why they could not begrudge him the opportunity to provide for his family with a lucrative four-year deal. 

It’s business, but it’s good to know that even in the rough and tumble of modern rugby league, it can still be done with class.