Josh Dugan and Sandor Earl tattoos
Josh Dugan and Sandor Earl tattoos. Photo: Colleen Petch
If tattoos are considered to be body art then Canberra Raiders stars Sandor Earl and Josh Dugan are walking, talking and tackling art galleries.
Animals, stars, song lyrics, family portraits and popular Twitter hash tags adorn the toned flesh of these young athletes and both couldn't be prouder of their creative collections.
Sport stars getting their sleeves covered in ink is nothing new, and Curtin University professor of cultural studies Jon Stratton believes professional sportsmen, in particular, will continue to use tattoos as an expression of masculinity, hardness and mateship.
''Sportsmen are people with a particular preoccupation with their bodies. They know their bodies are a spectacle. It's all about being watched. The history of tatts has a lot to do with the history of outsiderness and sportsmen do consider themselves to be outside the mainstream. Only another sportsman can understand the pressures on you and the kind of hours that you keep, which is why you see a lot of them with tattoos. They are like the sailors who brought tattoos to Britain - a band of outsiders who can identify each other through their body art.''
While 22-year-old Dugan has branded himself with photos of family members and inspirational quotes like ''Hope Assists the Brave'', Earl takes more of an Andy Warhol ''art is what you can get away with'' approach to ink. The 23-year-old winger, with a new reversed ombré´ hairstyle, has a penchant for all things ostentatious, especially when it comes to his tatts.
He first went under the needle at 17 and had his mum and brother's initials etched into his arm. He says he has spent ''around four full days in the chair'' over the past six years and is comfortable in his decorated skin. Skin which he admits he embellishes spontaneously with things like kisses, smiley faces wearing headphones and a wristwatch telling him it's ''Party Time''.
''Whenever something popped into my head I just had to get it. It was really impulsive,'' he says about his diverse stamps, which vary from the sentimental - ''Live Your Dreams'' in Latin - to the superficial - his biceps reflect the Billboard Top 100 chart of 2012 thanks the small markings of song titles Like A Boss and Black Russian.
He admits the pain no longer affects him as he found zen on his iPod. ''I just put my headphones on and get in the zone. I don't even remember getting some of the tattoos. I've done my time. When I was younger I had all those tattoos and sat there and copped the pain and it was rubbish. I'm not doing that any more. I've done my apprenticeship.''
The rising NRL star, who moonlights as an underwear model and handles both pythons and cow hide with finesse, is the David Beckham of Canberra. That is if Beckham had a sense of humour and enjoys the odd vodka neat. When asked what he thinks he'll look like when he's 80, Earl is nonchalant.
''I'll look like everyone else of our generation, everyone will look the same. It'll be funny, I'll be in my shorts and long socks with the stars [a large tattoo on his leg] hanging out. The nurses will love it.''
When pressed about his recent ''#Dorguson'' tattoo - an homage to the social media support his friendship with teammate Blake Ferguson garnered - he said he was a little worried about people thinking it was ''a one-way bromance'' and so Ferguson will get the ink equivalent of the Best Friends locket sometime this year. Their tattooist, Franck, from Broadbeach's Universal Ink has already been briefed.
The Raiders boys love of ink is nothing new by Australian standards. According to a 2012 study carried out by the National Health and Medical Research Council, one in seven Australians now boasts ''tough stickers''.
However, in Hollywood many celebrities are undergoing the painful process of having them removed.
Actors Mark Wahlberg and Megan Fox have both spoken out about their tattoo regret. ''It is incredibly painful. Wherever the ink is, the laser hits it and it sort of pops up like little pieces of popcorn and explodes your skin. It's really awful. So, kids, don't ever get tattoos,'' Fox said in 2012.