Opinion: Lima Sopoaga chose cash over country - and there's nothing wrong with that

With All Blacks and Highlanders star Lima Sopoaga having yesterday confirmed he's leaving New Zealand for English club side Wasps, the double standard of players being pressured to choose country over cash has again reared its ugly head.

Lima Sopoaga celebrates against South Africa Source: Photosport

Sopoaga is just the latest star to add his name to the list of All Blacks leaving for Europe in their prime, with the likes of Malakai Fekitoa, Aaron Cruden and Tawera Kerr-Barlow among those to turn down the black jersey in favour of the Euro - and that's just in the last year.

But, while reaction to players leaving usually ranges from somewhere between "how dare they?!" to "we didn't need them anyway!", surely it's time to stop chastising sportsmen for chasing the cash when it's so easily available.

In no other industry apart from sport are professionals not only pressured to - but expected - to turn down the large sums of money on offer for their services to remain with their current employers.

If you were offered the chance to double, or even triple your current salary, you couldn't accept it quick enough. It's exactly the same for athletes, for a number of reasons.

It's claimed the 81-Test loosie will move after the next Super Rugby season and link up with Malakai Fekitoa and Ma'a Nonu. Source: 1 NEWS

With nearly every All Blacks star who's left in recent times, the decision has more often than not been in relation to a player choosing a more financially secure future for a young family, something more important than individual honours won on the field.

In Fekitoa's case, this was especially true, leaving New Zealand to join French club Toulon, giving up the All Blacks at age 25 to support not just his immediate, but extended family in Tonga.

As All Blacks fans, we need to realise that representing your country may be a player's personal ambition, but professionally it shouldn't have to be the primary concern of an athlete.

It doesn't just extend to rugby either, with now former Black Caps bowler Mitchell McClenaghan turning his back on a New Zealand contract to pursue a career as a freelance Twenty20 "merchant".

The opportunity to provide for his loved ones was one too good for Fekitoa to turn down. Source: 1 NEWS

McClenaghan's decision doesn't just benefit his bank balance, but also his health, with his once injury-ravaged frame now free to take part in the easier lifestyle that T20 cricket brings with it, bowling four overs every other night rather than battling it out for five days in Tests.

To get philosophical, life is short - and athlete's careers are even shorter.

Sportsmen and women are responsible for looking after themselves professionally, and that means seeking the best deal possible for their services, the same way people of any other profession do.

Yes, it might be inconvenient or even sad to see a player like Sopoaga choose to grab the money and run, but it's time we accept that players are entitled to look after themselves ahead of pleasing the most die-hard fans.