Soward: I don’t care I’m NRL’s most hated
Posted on 03/27/19 8:44 AM
Jamie Soward stopped caring about being hated the day he signed on the dotted line with Penrith.
One of the most polarising figures in the NRL came to the realisation his career-long struggle for recognition and respect was a losing battle.
So when nearly 25,000 fans at Allianz Stadium were chanting the all-too-familiar “wanker” chorus as he lined up the definitive sideline conversion against the Sydney Roosters with three minutes left in the qualifying final, Soward couldn’t have felt more at home.
The journeyman doesn’t expect his clutch kick and subsequent match-winning field goal to change the perception of the rugby league public, but the difference is now he doesn’t care.
Soward, the perennial scape goat, laughing stock and punching bag, is one game away from captaining and spearheading the Panthers in a grand final.
“When I signed with Penrith, I had a moment with myself where I knew I was going to get bagged and probably will still get bagged for the rest of my career,” Soward told AAP.
“I don’t care about the recognition. I really don’t care.
“You only have to listen to the fans out there when I was taking that kick to see what they think of me.
“Opinions, great. Everyone’s got one.”
But Soward hasn’t always been so at peace with it all.
At 29 years of age, his resume boasts an NRL premiership with St George Illawarra, three State of Origin appearances for NSW – including the leading hand in a victory – and five trips to the NRL finals.
On paper, that’s a fair record in the cut-throat world of the rugby league playmaker.
But the overriding opinion on Soward has always been that he’s overrated and hard to stomach.
Soward admits he grew frustrated at his lack of popularity, but being called a “wanker” no longer fazes him.
“I probably am half the time,” he jokes.
“Of course it’s frustrating. You always want to be liked.
“But I’ve just had to accept it.
“Wally Lewis was called that and I’m not comparing myself to him or anything. It’s just fans – I’m sure our fans were giving it to (the Roosters) players as well.”
Writing off Soward hasn’t solely been the domain of the fans.
He was unwanted by the Roosters and exiled by Steve Price at the Dragons last year, where he went to the London Broncos for a stint in the English Super League and copped a pasting there as well.
It’s not difficult to see where the incredible turnaround in attitude has come from – as Soward has thrived on having more responsibility leading Penrith around the park than he ever did at the Dragons.
The Panthers signed Soward as a “marquee player”, even if outsiders scoffed at him being given that kind of billing.
And from the moment he walked through the Penrith offices, the sharp-shooting half has been held in the highest esteem by everyone at the club, starting with the boss, Phil Gould.
“He hasn’t been unwanted while ever I’ve been around,” said Gould on Channel Nine.
“I’m very happy fro Jamie too. He deserves something like this.”