General Hard work pays off for Stapleton

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YEARS of struggle and sacrifice have finally paid off for Penrith battler Craig Stapleton after he signed a six-figure deal to join Sharks next season.

While the NRL's elite can command in excess of $500,000 a season, Stapleton has been struggling to feed his family of six on the league's minimum wage of just $37,500 this year.

Such has been the financial hardship on the journeyman prop that he has been forced to work alongside his father on the rail yards on his day off training.

"It's hard for a family man to be on that sort of money," Stapleton said today.

"It's not too bad if you're a single bloke, you can get by, but when you have a family to feed it's really hard.

"There's no way (we could do it for another season), there's not a chance we could have and I wouldn't want to put my family through that either.

"We knew this year would be tough and I spoke about that with my family.

"They said it was my last chance (in rugby league) and stood by me, so I didn't want to put them through it again."

The two-year deal with the Sharks will allow the Stapleton family to move back into their house at Shellharbour after renting in Penrith during his stint with the Panthers.


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The durable 27-year-old said it would be a luxury to be able to concentrate exclusively on football and not have to supplement his income with another job.

"It can be hard sometimes, but it's not too bad," he said of his days driving freight company trains.

"At least now it's not a necessity, if I want to work I can and if I don't have to I don't have to."

The former Parramatta and St George Illawarra bookend, described by coach John Lang as his best forward this season, applauded the NRL's move to increase the minimum wage to $50,000 and said the latest contract justified his decision to return to the NRL.

"Playing for a club that was coming last every week, I was pretty close (to quitting) last year," he said of his ill-fated stint with English second division side Leigh.

"We've had to move around a little bit and this year was more about getting reinstated in the NRL.

"It has done its job."
 

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