How do you solve a problem like Todd Carney?

Todd Carney – where do I even begin?

Just over 24 hours after the Cronulla Sharks had posted just their third victory over the year over the Brisbane Broncos, Todd Carney decided it would be clever to get a mate to take a photo of him attempting to urinate in his own mouth.

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Today, the Cronulla Sharks sacked Carney and have cancelled his reported $650,000 per year contract.  In their statement, the Sharks said “we are committed to building a successful club, a club with strong values and a club which sets and respects high standards in all aspects of its operations and activities. When Todd was first signed to the Sharks he was made well aware of his responsibilities both on and off the field, to himself, the club and to the game in general, however the photograph that appeared last night on social media does not meet the values and standards the club is looking to uphold and take into the future.”

Bravo, Cronulla, bravo.

There is plenty of debate about this issue and I thought I would just make a couple of comments.

The first debate is around whether the punishment is too harsh considering the punishment which has been handed out to other players over the years. For example, many out there are making comments like why should the Sharks terminate Carney’s NRL contract when players like Robert Lui are still running around. For those, unaware, Lui was the player who assaulted his pregnant girlfriend following Mad Monday celebrations.

I understand the frustration. Every time I see Lui running around in a Women in League jersey I feel sick to my stomach. However, despite Lui and Carney’s actions not even being comparable, in order to be taken seriously as a code, the NRL needs to look forward, not backward.

This is Carney’s third club. He was sacked by Canberra in 2008 after he apparently urinated on a patron’s head at a Canberra nightclub.  The next club he went to was the Roosters where he was sacked for breaking a club-issued alcohol ban. Now, following another alcohol fuelled incident, Carney has once again brought his club and the game into disrepute and its not good enough anymore. 

This all comes back to the age old question of whether we want footballers or role models.

This is not the first issue regarding player behaviour which the NRL has had to deal with this year and it raises the question of what we expect from the men who play NRL in Australia.

On the one hand is the view that winning is everything. What flows from this idea is that the men selected to play for each team every week should be judged solely on their ability to play and other factors should not be considered.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Carney.

I applaud the Sharks for the tough stance they have taken, however this tough stance will only be a tough stance if other clubs stand by the Sharks and refuse to sign Carney. 

If another club signs Carney, it completely undermines any action that the Sharks have taken and tells Todd Carney that this sort of behaviour is ok.

In the past, Carney has been dealt with in a manner which suggests  ‘its all about winning’. He has been allowed indiscretion after indiscretion because of how talented he is. There has been no recognition that if he has been sacked by one Club it should not work in the favour of another Club who wants to sign him.

In light of recent incidents, the Clubs do need to take a stronger stance when it comes to player behaviour. However, the Clubs need to work together and have a consistent approach. They need to support each other and make a stand and say ‘we do not tolerate this type of behaviour’ and stand behind Clubs who decide to deregister players.

Players need to be valued on more than just their playing ability. When you think about the gentleman of our game such as Darren Lockyer, Andrew Ryan, Nathan Hindmarsh, Luke Lewis, Hazem el Masri and countless others, the contribution they have made to their Clubs and the community in general is taken into account when considering how valuable they are to an NRL side.

Here is the problem – these young men who often have a tremendous amount of money thrown at them at a very young age, make mistakes and sometimes very big ones.

Many will say that the action the Sharks have taken is too harsh and that we should not be concerned with the way players behave when they are not on the football field.

I strongly disagree. These men are paid serious money and know when they sign up to play first grade football that their lives are under the microscope.

By signing up to be a first grade footballer, you don’t sign up to a life of not being able to go out with friends and family. You essentially sign up to a person who behaves decently – I don’t think this is too much to ask. 

Todd Carney is an exceptionally talented, young athlete, who might now finally have to learn that actions have consequences.

Love,

Ladies who League