Danny Wicks – road to redemption

If there’s one thing I love, it’s a story of redemption. But this perhaps doesn’t sit consistently with the fierce sense of protection I feel for my Club, its players, its fans and its reputation.

Traditionally, I have always said that one of the reasons I support the Parramatta Eels and a big reason I am so proud to call myself a Parramatta supporter is because, on the whole, Parramatta are a team of nice guys.

In the past, Parramatta have rarely been a team being featured in the headlines for the wrong reasons. Led by genuine nice guys like Nathan Hindmarsh, Luke Burt, Nathan Cayless and Ben Smith, I have always been so proud of how the Eels have conducted themselves on and off the field.

Over the past year or so, I have been forced to face this view of Parramatta as ‘nice guys’, head on and at times, it made me very uncomfortable.

In 2014, Manu Ma’u made his debut for the Eels after having spent three years in a New Zealand prison after being convicted for his role in a vicious gang brawl in 2007. Despite some initial trepidation, over the year, I grew so immensely proud that Ma’u played for my Club. His mental toughness, commitment and desire to act as a role model for other young people was, quite frankly, inspiring. I am proud that it is my Club that has given this young man a chance and that I am watching him, before my every eyes, turn his life around.

However, how does that sit with my previous position in respect of players who have consistently brought the game into disrepute or players who have committed more serious offences? I think my position needs to be, that if a player has been convicted of a crime and done their time in prison, then they should be given another opportunity in our game (probably under very, very strict conditions).

It’s for this reason, that I am crossing my fingers and toes for Danny Wicks in 2015.

Again, when Parramatta announced his signing, I was slightly concerned.

But I have decided to take a big breath and give the man a second chance, because everyone deserves one.

Following Junior Paulo’s walk to the judiciary, Danny Wicks has been included in the Eels squad to face the Bulldogs this weekend. It will be his first NRL game in 5 years following his serving of 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to drug trafficking charges. This is essentially Danny’s walk to redemption and I am hoping he comes out and really makes an impact on Friday night.

Everyone makes mistakes – granted Wicks may have made a mistake bigger than most. However, at the moment I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he can take this opportunity to get his life back on track. I hope that in 12 months time, I am as proud of Wicks as I am of Manu Ma’u. I hope that Wicks recognises the incredible opportunity that the Parramatta Eels have given him and uses this as fuel to compete in a way we have never seen him compete before.

Wicks is about 20 kilograms lighter than when we last saw him for the Knights. He is fitter than ever and the media reports suggest that he is hungrier than ever. I hope that this translates into action on Friday night and that Wicks can become another Parramatta player of which I am immensely proud of – although perhaps for slightly different reasons than normal.

Don’t let me down, Danny.


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