No more chances: Petero
I wrote last week of the need to take a stand against fighting after the incident between Paul Gallen and Nate Myles in State of Origin I. Unfortunately, I feel that it’s also time we took a stand against players that continually bring our game into disrepute.
It is so disappointing to hear of a number of off-field incidents over the past week that has cast a negative pall over our game.
We need to draw a line in the sand. No more chances.
Clubs are doing their utmost in trying to educate young players in the right ways to approach what they do both on and off the football field and if the message is not getting through then we simply have to cut players loose. It’s disrespectful to those that are doing the right thing and appreciate the privilege of playing professional football to do anything else. If so many guys can get it right but a small group continues to get it wrong, it’s time we took action. It sound harsh but perhaps they should find another line of work.
I believe the NRL should seriously look at deregistering the contracts of repeat offenders. Being part of the Players’ Association for so many years I was always focused on the welfare of the players but when do we say enough is enough? And all of this in such a big week; a week that should be a celebration of our game and State of Origin. Instead, we have to deal with these events.
We’ve reached a point where decisions have to be made and players have to be let go. We’ve already seen a situation this year where Josh Dugan was released by Canberra only to be picked up by St George Illawarra a few weeks later. If Blake Ferguson were to be released it’s quite possible another club would pick him up as well.
What message does that send to our supporters and the players doing the right thing? ‘Yeah you can get into trouble but don’t worry; you can just pick up another opportunity at a club down the road’. It just doesn’t seem to send a strong enough message. I don’t want to sound too harsh but the supporters and all those players that do the right thing have had enough.
I also wrote last week about trying to grow the game and focusing on what direction we want our game to go. The game has tried everything possible and the clubs have tried everything possible to prevent it but when you’re getting repeat offenders there has to be a line in the sand where we say enough is enough.
We’ve got to give those opportunities to the thousands and thousands of players that dream of playing in the NRL. There are plenty of young guys waiting in the wings desperate for an opportunity. When we have guys that don’t realise how lucky they are and seem so desperate to throw it away, well, I’d rather see one of these young kids given his chance instead.
And you know what? Perhaps if we start deregistering repeat offenders, somewhere down the track there will be the realisation: ‘What an amazing opportunity I let slip.’ Maybe then it will hit home what they’ve done. Maybe that’s what has to happen.
I must admit I feel sorry for all the NSW players that are innocent victims in this. They must be devastated. I know from experience that when you turn up for that first State of Origin camp you all have one goal as a team, which is to win the series. To have three of your players, three influential players, going off and doing something of their own accord that will hinder the performance of the team in trying to reach that goal, it would be very disappointing. I always wanted to be around guys that I knew would put in for me.
I also feel sorry for the clubs, the supporters, the communities, the sponsors that pour in so much money into the game, the regular mums and dads who struggle each week to get their kids along to an NRL game or buy a jersey and the majority of players that understand who they are representing. It’s a shame we have this small minority of guys who tarnish the game and bring so much negative publicity to a game we all love.
I say it’s a minority because there are so many guys out there who are so passionate and love going out into the communities to give back to the game. They understand the responsibilities that go with that. I know all clubs have great community programs and do their very best to get out and support their communities.
A lot of guys are also studying part-time while they are playing. They have set themselves goals of what they want to do and what they want to achieve not only on the football field and off the football field. There are so many great stories. We had an Academic Team of the Year last year that the Players’ Association named and to hear about some of the courses the guys are undertaking – there are some guys really working hard to achieve as much as they can outside of the game. It’s a shame we don’t hear about them more often. Instead we hear about the small minority that get themselves in trouble.
I dream of the day when that is no longer the case.