A Silvertails feature piece It infuriates - this sneering disdain from gnarled old warhorses for those that havenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t played the game. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“You canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t really have an opinion about this gameÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? they growl out of battered lips ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“because you donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t really know what it is to play itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬?. You can be sure that what theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢re thinking of is one thing ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ the pain. If youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ve never played the game of Rugby League youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ve no idea of the pain the game inflicts. Sure the uninitiated can nod ascent to the theory that the body takes a battering, but itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s a little like saying youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ve experienced the Battle of the Somme because youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ve watched a documentary on the First World War. Consider that at its very essence the game is little more than two walls of large men that run at each other and collide sometimes up to five hundred times in the space of 80 minutes of frenzied action. There are few games that compare with the brutal combat that is Rugby League. Of the contact sports AFL occurs in wide open spaces and the accent is on running. Rugby Union has far more breaks in play. American Football follows a similar format but the ball is only in play for an average of 12 minutes per weekend. In comparison to League, basketball is little more than orchestrated ballet and itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s plainly obvious that a David Beckham wouldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t last beyond the first hit-up! And it is with the first hit-up that the pain begins. The ball slowly spirals into your hands as you sprint with all effort towards two or three men of similar size, hardened by hours on a weights bench. They stand less than ten metres away, slowly advancing with feet planted. Hitting the defensive line at full pace takes immense bravery. One millisecond you are traveling at full pace, the next your momentum comes to a shuddering halt as you careen into several hard men with intent. In many respects it would be preferable to run into a brick wall as at least it comes in a flat line with no possibility of stray knees and elbows shuddering into vulnerable areas of your person. That first hit stings like fire. Inevitably it is enough to inflict the first bruise or worse still a cork. Ah yes, the cork! That burning, throbbing sensation that comes from pulverized flesh smashed up against bone ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ capillaries and vessels exploding under impact and blood seeping into areas never intended. I wince at just the thought of it! Yet this is not the end. This is just the beginning. If the first hit-up takes bravery, the next requires insanity. For now the muscles are already burning, and the body is screaming in protest. And the brain knows what is coming next. Yet you do it again ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Âœ hurtling towards the wall for yet another round of pulverization. And again. And again. And again. Along with the battering comes the fatigue. The lungs burning and gasping for air whilst the muscles tighten and legs begin to wobble. Overwhelming exhaustion overcomes the body as the limbs start to scream that another step is impossible. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s at just that point when the opposition winger makes that half-break. When weary body begrudgingly responds and propels itself forward against all odds to make the tackle that needs to be made. Few know the price that is paid when the brink of exhaustion is shattered. Often the first price tag arrives late in the game. Excruciating cramps as muscles work themselves into golf balls sized knots, well intentioned trainers digging thumbs deeply into protesting fibre. Twenty minutes pass and still the pain assaults unrelentingly - cramping so fierce that the prone player begins asking for death through gritted teeth. ThereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s the long slow limp to the dressing shed, the victory song and half a dozen beers before the blissful ritual of the hot shower. Scalding hot water cascades over spent bodies as rivers of grime, sweat and blood snake downwards to form a brown puddle on the floor. However it is the next morning when gnarled men form opinions on who knows what about the game. You must have played the game to understand the weary response to alarm clock, the fall to the floor and the bone weary crawl to the medicine cabinet. The agony of those excruciating, knife in the flesh stabs of agony exuding from every pore. Only a few understand the true cost of Rugby League.