Former legend urges stars ’to get your hands dirty’
Peter Wynn knows what rugby league struggle street looks like, and the resilience required to come out the other side.
The Parramatta legend faced countless setbacks throughout his remarkable career, which spanned 176 games and 11 seasons for his beloved Eels.
Which is why Wynn is perfectly placed to offer advice to the current crop of NRL players facing uncertainty following the coronavirus crisis.
He took a pay cut with Parramatta during the 1981 season after snapping his posterior cruciate ligament in the Eels' round 2 clash against Canterbury at Cumberland Oval.
Wynn was sidelined for 12 months, meaning he missed the Eels' maiden premiership victory over Newtown.
He also had his sign-on contract worth approximately $10,000 slashed by 80 per cent.
To survive financially he worked as a high school teacher in Blacktown, taking home $10,000 for the year.
Wynn has urged the current NRL players to put their privileged position into perspective compared to the average person and turn the pay cuts into a positive, for themselves and the community.
"It's time to get your hands dirty, boys," Wynn told The Daily Telegraph.
"Get out there and look for a job. There are plenty of people who would be thrilled to have you working for them.
"Let the community see, 'okay you are a superstar, but you are getting out there at the coalface and having a dig'."
Wynn says today's players have two choices - sit back and complain or use the curve in the road as a challenge to become better.
It was a mentality he adopted in '81 when living day-to-day became a challenge relying solely on his teacher's income to survive.
"I was given a pay cut, but that just made me train harder to come back and earn the money that I felt I was warranted," he said.
"I didn't spit the dummy, run away and hide under a pillow. It just made me more competitive and motivated to get the job done.
"In those days you worked for 12 months and on November 1 was when you received your rugby league money.
"What you signed on for and your match payments didn't come through until that date, so to survive you had to work your butt off outside of rugby league.
"I remember being so happy when then Parramatta CEO Denis Fitzgerald handed me my cheque on November 1.
"The players today are in a position where they are still being paid x amount of dollars and they need to take on a similar positive attitude."
Wynn has again had call on his dogged determination in recent weeks.
His sports store in the heart of Parramatta - Peter Wynn Score - is open but is suffering significant financial loss with limited customers due to the coronavirus shutdown.
For over 30 years, Wynn's store has opened its doors to some of the world's biggest sports stars, celebrities and dignitaries.
From big name league players like Sonny Bill Williams and Johnathan Thurston to legendary cricketer Brian Lara and former Prime Minister John Howard.
Now Wynn's store resembles a ghost town.
"It is very eerie," he said.
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"It is also empty not having humans around - it is a hollow feeling.
"It is usually an exciting time of the year with kids coming into the shop to purchase their headgear, mouth guards and shoulder pads.
"But that isn't happening now due to the virus shutdown and it is a big void.
"We've been going since 1987 - so 33 years, and we are down 80 to 90 per turnover per day.
"It is massive."
Wynn says the closure of Church Street for the construction of the light rail in Parramatta has also had a major impact on business in the region.
"All the restaurants are closed down, so it has had a massive whack on business," he said.
"It is like running into Les Boyd, Les Davidson and Terry Randall all in one hit.
"Those guys are three of the toughest players ever and the virus, the NRL shutdown and the light rail are three of the toughest things that have ever happened to my business career."
The Australian community is facing difficult times in the coming months, but Wynn is determined to push through the pain.
"I haven't been instructed by the government to close the doors, so I'm still working," he said.
"The government stepping in financially will help me keep my staff. The NRL are aiming to open by July 1, so there is some hope there.
"I also still have an avenue online to explore.
"It is hard, but it does get your brain thinking of different ideas to get the business back.
"You have to stimulate and motivate people to want to buy from you - that is the challenge."
Originally published as Former legend urges stars 'to get your hands dirty'