Well here we are, not not even 2 full days in to the first week of the off-season and low and behold we have already got our first fines and suspensions handed out for players behaving badly. However, have I been caught off guard by these developments? Just like the majority of rugby league fans, of course not.
The only major point that I am surprised with is how lenient the NRL has been with the suspensions handed out. My big query over that is how can they sit there and let this happen consistently. There is one reason and one reason alone that it continues to occur, the main culprits always seem to be the high profile players.
How can they think that it is going to end when all they do is give the major stars not even a slap on the wrists, what example does that send all the future star’s of the game. If they can be great they will get off? I’m a name every person knows so I can’t be punished. Admittedly they have punished the top tier players in the past but that was under a regime that actually help all players to high levels of accountability.
In the past, star’s of the game were absolutely bastardised for indiscretions away from the field. Look at Todd Carney for example yes he admitted he had an issue but what exactly did the NRL do in regards to his well-being? Suspend him, yes they kept extending the suspensions every time but is that really taking care of the issues at hand. Carney was suspended after the infamous “BUBBLER” incident which in reality was a non-event in my opinion but because of the past mistakes he was kicked to the curb to fend for himself.
That is one of the main reasons that I feel things have changed and not for the betterment of the players welfare. Yes they are getting on top of problems much more quickly but are the punishments fitting the crime? In my opinion they are nowhere near close to fitting the crimes committed.
Take the most recent incident that happened with those players from the Melbourne Storm and that happened less then 24 hours after they had lost the preliminary final against the Penrith Panthers. That’s not even the worst part , 2 of the 3 players involved are allegedly members of the leadership group at the club.
I actually found it laughable hearing what came out of the media release and statements from the Storm that the players had no idea what it was. Do they take us all for a bunch of idiots? We have all been around and gone to enough night clubs and parties to realise what was happening around us that we know they said is nothing but absolute cookie cutter make people happy crap.
The big thing I’m taking out of this is the fact that it feels like the players and the Storm seem to believe that they are bigger then every one else and quite possibly think that they are more important than the NRL. Now yes the Storm have been hugely important to the growth of the game in Victoria but the fact that the greatest Storm player of all time in Cameron Smith has come out and asked what is going shows he is either concerned that now he has left and with Bellamy almost done coaching the inmates maybe starting to run the asylum or he may not want things coming out that show this isn’t an isolated incident for the club.
I’m looking back to only 12 months ago now and to how Cameron Munster was after Melbourne won last year’s Grand Final and in the lead up to the State Of Origin series. At the time he was looked at as having just enjoyed himself to much and looking back now and how he appeared in the video’s and images that came out following the celebrations show’s just how much he must have enjoyed himself if you take the most recent video in to mind.
For me you can look at they way’s that certain players are treated in regards to off field misdemeanours. After looking at how the Storm players have been reprimanded compared to Mitchell Pearce on Australia Day in 2016. Now I’m not saying that what Pearce did on that occasion was wrong but was it really worse then being caught with illicit substances in front of you (I’m sure no one is buying the they didn’t know story) I surely don’t think so, yet Pearce coped an 8 match ban while the Storm players are getting 1 Mach each.
We can then look at the Warriors young gun in Recce Walsh who was arrested on the Gold Coast and being found in possession of a small bag of cocaine on him. He fronted up to the media (more then likely forced by the Warriors to do so) and was able to stand up and cop any and everything by admitting to the mistake and owning up to it, something even these so called leaders at the Storm couldn’t do.
So for me it is a sad indictment for the game and the players who have been around long enough to understand what they need to do for the game and their clubs that a rookie has more respect for himself, the game and his team to take the full brunt of a major error in the stride. This should serve as an eye opener as well to the NRL that if these young players are happy to admit that they have made mistakes then they need to start coming down even harder on these “veterans” and show to us the fans and all the other players that it doesn’t matter who you are any more, if you hurt Rugby League and the NRL then we can hurt you even worse.
What’s even sadder is that given how many times the game has had the chance to come down hard and show that they are in control they don’t. Yes there are rules in regards to drug testing as well depending on if they are in or out of competition and that is fair to a point.
I have seen a player in my AFL team St Kilda get done for taking a shake to get ready for a game however 1 ingredient in the shake was banned but only on game day. Yet some players in all the other codes have done hard drugs that are completely illegal yet can continue to play.
Until the testing rules/laws are changed and in my opinion for the better to allow players to be tested for illicit drugs or substances outside of competition and for the organisation’s to come down hard on them this will only continue.
And if you want to hear Fanbabble Jamie and Fanbabble Scotty’s opinions on the matter make sure to go and listen to the the latest episode of the Chat From The Back podcast where we not only discuss these issues but more.