Should fans get benefit from stars?
ON Wednesday, Queensland's State of Origin team visits Roma for a fan day and every player is likely to suffer some form of writer's cramp on the flight back to the Sunshine Coast that night.
More than 5000 people are expected to turn out to welcome the Maroons in what will be the biggest influx of visitors since the Broncos played in Roma in 1994 and, conservatively, each Queensland player will autograph a minimum of 100 items.
They will sign everything from football jerseys to scraps of paper, and do so in the spirit in which they are visiting the flood-ravaged town.
But, as is the case at similar events, a few gold diggers will produce a piece of memorabilia that will increase in value carrying the signature of Mal Meninga, Johnathan Thurston or Billy Slater. It is, sadly, the nature of today's greedy and opportunist society.
A few weeks ago, Bundaberg Rum released its Darren Lockyer No.6 bottle of rum, 'expertly crafted' the company said to signify Locky's service to the No.6 jersey.
They filled 37,200 bottles, each with a recommended retail price of $60.
Lockyer attended the launch and signed the first 200 bottles sold that day. Such was the expected attendance that Bundy asked customers - who were limited to one bottle each - to register online for positions in the autograph line.
Now, one of those bottles - No 10 - is on eBay at $6000 - a bountiful windfall for the original buyer. The bottle is signed and boxed, and would be a treasured collectable for some wealthy fan keen to grab a keepsake.
Another signed bottle is being offered at $1085, and an unsigned one at $135. Even a flyer from the launch was listed at $18.25 - a sure message that the former Broncos, Queensland and Australian skipper is still very much loved and admired.
The question begs to be asked, however - is this fair? Should opportunists be able to prostitute the signature of a sporting icon to this degree?
Doubtless Lockyer was paid handsomely to endorse the product, and his kids will treasure the No 6 bottle he was given. And without question Bundy will make a killing.
In my seven years at the Broncos, 'commercial' signature seekers - for want of a better description - became easy to spot.
They don't fool anyone, least of all the players. And there are ways and means of drafting the wheat from the chaff.
But these bloodsuckers ruin it for the genuine fan. They put the players on guard and impinge on their good nature and generosity.
Thankfully, I doubt many of these parasites will make it to Roma.