COVID-19 concerns very close to home for Munster
Cameron Munster plans to start casual work as a concreter this week, but there is a deeper purpose behind his return to Queensland - the fear of what coronavirus could do to his loved ones.
For the past 30 years, the Munster family have waged an ongoing battle with diabetes. It began with the Queensland Origin's star grandfather, who fell into a diabetic coma before Munster was born. His father Steve was diagnosed with diabetes more than a decade ago, while mum Deborah has her own health battles.
While COVID-19 is not as great a threat to young and fit NRL athletes such as Munster, the medical fraternity has reported serious complications for diabetics who contract coronavirus.
When the NRL competition was suspended almost a fortnight ago, it convinced Munster to pack a suitcase and begin the 2400km drive to Queensland, first to visit his partner's family on the Sunshine Coast before stopping into hometown Rockhampton to see his folks.
"It was a no-brainer to come back up here with the things going on with my family," Munster said.
"There was no point sitting at home in Melbourne doing nothing so it's a good time to come and see my parents who have some health issues.
"Mum has high blood pressure and Dad has had diabetes for a long time.
"If either one of them was to get coronavirus they would be in serious trouble.
"Dad has had diabetes for a long time, he's not the best at looking after himself with it. He's been told he has a 10 per cent chance of living if he gets sick, so that's pretty scary for me.
"Mum has had high blood pressure since I was born _ maybe I gave it to her _ but she is pretty good always taking her medication.
"Their health situation hits it home for me and I want to do what I can so that they can live on. I want to make sure they are safe and are following the protocols as well.
"There's a lot of us out there with older parents and grandparents so we're all in the same boat. I just hope we get rid of this virus as soon as we can."
For a man accustomed to training almost every day, Munster admits he is going batty in a brave new world entailing no football for NRL stars.
To combat the boredom, Munster is keen to get a second job. He was in talks on Saturday with an associate who owns a concreting business and is hopeful of getting a labouring gig in the coming days to keep him busy.
"The last thing I want to do is end up in Fat Club when we get back to the Storm," Munster said with a laugh.
"The hard thing will be keeping in shape. It can be easy to fall into the trap of eating shit food and playing computer games, so I'm aware of that and I want to do things to make sure I stay fit
"I'm already missing footy. It's a surreal feeling for me with the competition in limbo."
As one of the NRL's highest-paid stars, Munster was among the worst affected by the pay-cut negotiations finalised during the week.
The Storm and Maroons pivot was due to earn $800,000 this season. Now, with a 46 per cent pay cut, he will earn around $432,000. It hardly puts him on Struggle Street and Munster, who once earned nine bucks an hour working at Rebel Sport, says he will never cry poor.
"You won't hear me whingeing one bit," he said. "I would play football for $1000 a month, I couldn't care less.
"We can't be selfish. There's a bigger picture to look at.
"I really feel for people in society. There are parents out there with kids who are losing jobs. Some are struggling to put food on the table. I feel so fortunate with my life. I've only got a dog to worry about.
"It sucks to see pictures of people lining up at Centrelink to get financial help.
"This is a time that will test our resilience as a country but all we can do is support local businesses and come out the other side, hopefully with some football to bring some entertainment to people's lives."
Originally published as COVID-19 concerns very close to home for Munster