May 21, 2004 | Jeff Wall

Another Rugby League Day of Shame – punt the officials, not just the players.

REGULAR readers will know I have a low opinion of rugby league administrators – about as low as a snake’s belly!
The latest scandal involving the NSW State of Origin player, Mark Gasnier, highlights two facts.
Firstly, the game of rugby league, and its senior players in particular, have a serious alcohol problem that must be addressed……and that the hierarchy continues to sweep under the bar cloth.
Secondly, the game’s administrators – with few exceptions – clearly do not enjoy the respect of the game’s highly paid players.
Frankly, on this occasion, I don’t just blame the player, or players, notwithstanding the disgraceful behaviour that has been revealed.
The bumbling, inept media performance yesterday by the highly paid CEO of the Australian and New South Wales Rugby Leagues, Geoff Carr, has worsened an already bad situation.
Mr Carr yesterday morning described the allegations as a “massive beat up” by the media. Within hours, he had to announce the player had been punted from the State of origin team.
Some beat up!
But the same Geoff Carr has “form”. During the Kangaroos tour of the UK late last year, he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to investigate the theft of property belonging to team members, amid widespread allegations that one player was responsible.
Surprise! Surprise! The case remains unresolved.
If highly paid rugby league players, or rules players, or soccer players, or croquet players, drag their game into public shame and disgrace, despite all the exposure, all the penalties, then the game concerned surely has a leadership crisis – and not just a player leadership crisis.
Officials like Mr Carr are highly paid (about as highly paid as the players)………..they follow the teams around like minstrels – and do so flying first class, staying in the best hotels, wining and dining at the game’s expense – without any real accountability – and when they go overseas they usually have a “side trip” to recover from the ardours of the tour, also at the game’s expense.
Not only did the player concerned make an obscene phone call to a woman he either did not know or hardly knew, it has also been revealed that some of the NSW team were trying to get on board a commuter bus at 7:30 in the morning, full as state school hat racks, after a night on strong drink.
I don’t feel sorry for the players concerned, and I certainly don’t feel sorry for the officials whose weak leadership, and in many cases poor example, makes them part of the problem not the solution.
I feel sorry for kids like my nephew who idolise rugby league players and must find the behaviour of their heroes bewildering, and the mums and dads who give up their weekends so their sons can play league in the hope that one day they might be a star as well.
They deserve better, and it is shameful that some of the game’s stars, and some of its senior officials, continue to let them down.
Punt the players, sure, but punt the over-paid, under- performing officials as well. I would be happy to supply a list of the latter!

Posted by Jeff Wall at 9:56 am | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. Where has society failed if these thugs feel that they can get away with this abuse.
    I am flabergasted that our society and women in particular are not being so much more vocal in the abhorence of these animals.
    I am appaled that the ARL are incapable of controlling the players.
    I am disappointed that our sports loving PM has done nothing and said nothing over this issue.
    I wash my hands of thugby league and will never return.

    Comment by Jonathan Rihan — May 21, 2004 @ 10:02 pm

  2. Jeff is onto something important when he says that the game of rugby league and its senior players have an alcohol problem.
    We need to understand what this means. It is not that senior rugby league players and officials have a greater weakness for the sauce than ordinary mortals, and only partly that there is a certain culture within the game that glorifies intoxication. There is also a close and deeply institutionalised relationship of mutual dependency between the alcohol industry and rugby league which seems to be inhibiting rational action by the game’s authorities to manage the players’ drinking and social habits.
    As well as the obvious need to protect the public from anti-social player behaviour and renovate the game’s public image, it’s also not rocket science that players who are teetotallers or moderate drinkers will be fitter, perform better, recover quicker from injury and enjoy better health in retirement than those who indulge themselves in the ways we read about in the sporting pages these days. A football club which seriously tackles the drinking culture amongst its players can expect to be rewarded both by on-field success and by a decent reputation for off-field conduct. There are also obvious rewards for the administration of a football code which takes such steps. We then have to ask the question of why NRL clubs and the League aren’t taking decisive steps which would clearly be in their own and their players’ long-term interest. In other words, is there a dollar addiction underpinning the drinking problem?

    Comment by Paul Norton — May 23, 2004 @ 3:04 pm

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