July 07, 2004 | Jeff Wall

Jason Stevens – not your average rugby league player.

JASON STEVENS should be playing for the NSW Blues against the Queensland Maroons at the Olympic Stadium tonight – he won’t be but tomorrow he has perhaps an even more important assignment at the 2004 Hillsong Conference at the Sydney SuperDome.
What is the Hillsong Conference you may well ask?
Jason Stevens is not your average rugby league player. He plays the game harder than most, has played around 10 test matches for Australia, and eight or nine Origin matches for NSW. He is one of the stars, playing at prop forward, in the Cronulla Sharks. He is not unknown to the judiciary, or referees……but that is the lot of most props!
But he is also the most active and open Christian in Australian sport today. Tomorrow he and around 40 other Christian league players will be star attractions at the 2004 Hillsong Conference – being attended by around 20,000, yes 20,000, Christians many of whom belong to the Hillsong Christian Church at Baulkham Hills and Waterloo in Sydney.
Surprisingly, the number of active Christians among top level rugby league players is on the rise. The number who openly profess their faith is growing as well.
Now I have given the Anglican and Catholic Churches a hammering on this site for behaving badly. They deserved it. I have heard some harsh things to say about rugby league players behaving badly as well. They deserved it too…………………but the work of prominent Christians in sport such as Jason Stevens ought to be acknowledged.
Tomorrow he will be joined at the Hillside Convention by Paul Osborne, the former Canberra Raiders star player and now ABC Radio league commentator, whose Christian commitment is well known in the nation’s capital.
Jason Stevens has his own website, on which he answers questions mainly from young fans. He spends a lot of his spare time working with vulnerable kids.
He has also written a book, “Worth the Wait – True Love and Why the Sex is Better”. It deals with his publicly professed commitment to abstaining from sex until he is married. Team mates, opponents, the media, and fans, constantly rib him about it, but he takes it all in his stride, and good luck to him.
Other prominent league players and personalities with a very public Christian commitment include Matt Rogers (now sadly lost to the Wallabies) who titled his autobiography, “On a Wing and a Prayer”, former Kangaroos, Rod Wishart and Brad Mackay, and one of the game’s all-time greats, Steve Mortimer, who recently spoke very movingly about the importance of his Christianity (he’s one of my mob, an Anglican) in dealing with the crisis at the Bulldogs leading to his resignation as CEO.
There are other current players who are active in their own churches, but none as open or as active as Jason Stevens. I know the AFL has a number of stars who are very active in promoting Christianity and we see Matt Hayden’s faith on display every time he scores a century.
In the secular society in which we live, and a society in which the mainstream churches have let so many people down, and have done so very badly, and all too often seem to be “disconnected” with the real world, Christian sportsmen and sportswomen doing good working the community deserve to be praised………….and so do Muslim sportsmen such as the Bulldogs star, Hazam El Mazri.
Indeed, if there is a Calathumpian sportsperson doing good works that deserves acknowledgement as well!
But isn’t it interesting that just about all the prominent sportspeople who are Christians, and prominent singers, actors etc, are almost all attracted to the evangelical or “happy clappy” churches?
Its no coincidence, of course, that these same churches are experiencing massive growth in numbers – up by 18 per cent according to the last census – at a time when just about all the mainstream churches (with the notable exception of the Catholic and Anglican Dioceses of Sydney).
It’s also no coincidence that the great majority of the 20,000 or so at the Hillside Convention are in the under 40 age group.
There are mainstream church communities working hard, and successfully, to connect with young Australians………………………but the reality is that the relevance of the mainstream churches in today’s society is diminishing.
Jason Stevens deserves to be encouraged for the work he does among young Australians, not just promoting his faith, but also in helping them to address and overcome the challenges of the age.
There are thousands of other young men and women – Christian and non Christian alike – doing the same.
But at a time when the image of rugby league has rightly taken a hammering, the Jason Stevens of our community deserve more recognition than they receive……even if they happen to play for the Blues.
I get very wary of Christians in politics these days. I know one or two who reek of hypocrisy! (Especially when their publicly trumpeted commitment to family life and values differs from their personal philandering).
But I think that even non-believers would encourage sportspeople like Jason Stevens who are happy to lend their standing to good causes, and to offer themselves as role models.
However, as an Anglican, it appals me that my Church, and the other mainstream churches, have a pathetic record in utilising them to rebuild the standing of the Church, and reverse the downward slide in its relevance.
Some of the attitudes of the evangelicals worry me……………but if they are helping our young people through the difficult and challenging world in which we live – and they are – then who am I to complain?

Posted by Jeff Wall at 11:11 am | Comments (3) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. Hi.
    My name is David Wilcox. I am the Pastor of Camperdown Christian Church in SW Victoria. I am looking for Chritian AFL players to come and speak but I haven’t been able to locate any (except S Hart in Q’land). Can you help?

    Comment by David Wilcox — July 14, 2004 @ 9:37 pm

  2. im a christian

    Comment by Anthony Rocca — July 31, 2004 @ 5:17 pm

  3. im a willy brain who loves emily merrick!

    Comment by Josh wilson — July 31, 2004 @ 5:18 pm

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