The most misunderstood word in the Australian sporting vernacular is journeyman.
It’s another American term that we’ve borrowed to describe the player who moves from club to club during the course of their career.
The problem, however, is that we’ve had it wrong from the first time a journalist typed it into a laptop.
Journeyman, in the truest sense, doesn’t suggest that the athlete in question has a passport full of stamps, but instead has been on the journey of a sporting career without ever being a star in his or her chosen profession.
And the NRL is carried on the backs of many journeyman – players who have never been close to playing State of Origin or pulling on a Test match jersey, but have managed to stay in the game for a much longer time than most observers would have predicted.
Jeremy Latimore was a journeyman. 182 games over 11 seasons with four clubs, with the majority of those games coming off the bench, defines what it is to hold down a job in rugby league without ever making headlines or leading the sports segment in the 6pm news.
The man who last weekend became the 599th player to pull on a Panthers first grade jersey fits the bill nicely too.
Scott Sorensen is 28 years of age and made his debut eight seasons ago, but his first game as a Panther was just the 40th NRL game of his career.
You don’t get to stick around that long having played so few games without being a tremendous clubman who possesses a great attitude.
The Cronulla-Caringbah junior debuted for the Sharks in 2014, but the fairytale of a long and successful career playing for the one club that he’d always supported was just that – a fairytale.
Three appearances for the Sharks in that first season in the big time weren’t enough to lock down a contract in the Shire, and so began a succession of pit stops with the Rabbitohs, Mt Pritchard Mounties and Canberra Raiders, during which time Sorensen added the grand total of two more NRL appearances to his tally.
To make ends meet while rugby league wasn’t exactly showering him with money, he’d work shifts as a wharfie, just to stay on the journey of a career in footy.
Finding a way back to the Sharks in 2018, Sorensen was often fighting a Queenslander by the name of Kurt Capewell for the same position in the Sharks’ starting forward pack, and at that stage the odds of them both being in the same team in 2021, but with the Penrith Panthers, would have been the longest of long shots.
Last Thursday, the day before the lopsided win over their old club, Capewell presented Sorensen with his debut first grade jersey as a Panther – one of them now a series-winning State of Origin player with Queensland, the other still finding a way to remain on the journey, playing a role that might have its own moment in the spotlight if the Panthers keep on doing what they’ve done for the first two months of the season.
— Penrith Panthers (@PenrithPanthers) May 10, 2021
Warren Smith is one of the country’s leading sports broadcasters. He currently calls the NRL for Fox League.