October and February – the dreaded NRL off season. A time of the year I do not look forward to. Sure, I love the Sydney Festival, Christmas, summer sunshine and the cricket, but to be honest, none of it compares to the feeling I get when the NRL is on.
I am addicted to the NRL. Not just my team, the Parramatta Eels, but everything about the sport. From March – October I live and breathe football. All I want to do is watch football, talk football and now since I have started NRL Supercoach, the obsession has gone to the next level.
It breaks my heart to have to write this story, but I feel like I need to – because I am bored. I am so incredibly bored. I am so incredibly sick of reading about off-field incidents involving players. Is anyone else bored?
Did anyone else possibly comprehend that the word ‘satisfaction’ would enter the rugby league vernacular in 2015?
The NRL season is not even 4 rounds in and already we have had to deal with the fallout from the nightclub incident in Arizona involving John Sutton and Luke Burgess, the drug accusations surrounding several Gold Coast Titans players (including 2 representative players) and Marty Kennedy from the Sydney Roosters facing drug allegations. Then the cherry on top – this week we started the NRL off week hearing about Jorge Taufua and Jacob Loko fighting outside a nightclub in Sydney and then today, we learn that Dane Nielsen from the St George Illawarra Dragons has not been named to play this weekend because of a breach of the Dragons Code of Conduct. The NRL Integrity Unit has been informed and there is speculation about that Nielsen has been involved in an incident with a player from another NRL club.
Did I mention it is only round 4?
How many times do we have to go over these issues? How many times does the NRL as a code need to go through this?
I’m absolutely sick of excuses. No longer should we be content with hearing ‘boys will be boys’, ‘this is what young guys do’, ‘NRL players aren’t meant to be role models’. Blah blah blah.
The reality is that our sport is now a business. Clubs need to operate in a commercial manner. Part of this is recongising the importance of brand, reputation and image. Is it too hard to fathom that for sponsors, not wanting to be associated with a club embroiled in drug allegations, sexual allegations or violent conduct would be a natural reaction? Not at all. Clubs need to protect their reputations and their brands and players need to begin to understand that their actions have very real consequences.
It’s depressing to me that I am beginning to realise that for some players, asking them to behave decently is too much. Why is this the case?
These young men are being paid, generally quite well, to play sport. But with this comes additional responsibilities – to their Club, to their sponsors and to their fans. Players need to understand this and if they can’t understand, then perhaps they need to spend some time on the sidelines to get their message across to them.
We need to start getting real with these players.
I’m not here to suggest that people do not make mistakes. People do. Every single day. We have many players in our game that have been given second chances, taken these second chances with two hands and changed their lives. My favourite current example is Manu Ma’u from the Parramatta Eels.
However, our sport is not here to be taken for a joy ride by players. Players need to learn that their actions have consequences and we need to teach our players that behaving decently is part of the package. If players make a mistake, they should not be lost to our game forever, but they should not be allowed to re-enter without conditions or an understanding that their behaviour was inappropriate.
We need to start taking player misbehaviour seriously. It is not acceptable that no one is surprised when another one of these incident hits the media. That is sad.
I want to spend the rest of the season talking about the talent on the field. I want to debate who should be the halves pairing for the NSW State of Origin side and whether the Cowboys can overcome their poor start to the season.
The current NRL administration has begun to take a strong stance in regard to player behaviour. This needs to continue until an incident a week is no longer the norm and an incident once a year becomes the exception.
Ladies who League