And it must come. I suspect Beattie will get the new policy over the line at the meeting of the league heavyweights on Thursday. The key to the policy must be built around the word “automatic’’. That is, they must announce that if you are a league player charged with a criminal offence, you will be automatically stood down on full pay. No excuses, no exceptions.
The point is that with an automatic suspension, the NRL can make clear it is not making comment on the likely guilt or innocence of the player charged. They are simply observing the reality. Their game cannot afford to keep fielding players charged with crimes. They have a serious problem with appalling behaviour and need to make clear to those who cross the line in that manner – you have no place in our game, until such time as you might have cleared your name.
Bravo, Peter Beattie and good on Marina Go, Mal Meninga and Greg Inglis for supporting it.
WORDS FROM THE WISE
You will recall the outcry in the USA when, led by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, many American footballers took a knee when the national anthem was played, in protest at the number of black Americans shot by police.
The fallout goes on, and it has been a major issue with thousands of columns written, many angry broadcasts, Kaepernick effectively banned from playing football and the US President putting his own weight behind the outcry, asking owners to suspend players who in the home of the brave and the land of the free, decided to bravely express their right of protest by joining Kaepernick.
Here in Australia we have had the tiniest echoes of it, the most significant of which occurred last Friday before the Indigenous All Stars played the Maori team.
After the Maori team sang the Kiwi national anthem, which has an opening verse in the Maori language, some of the Indigenous Australians stood there, but declined to sing theirs. Why not?
“It just brings back so many memories of what’s happened [in Australia’s past],” Cody Walker explained. “It’s something that everyone as a group and everyone in Australia need to get together and work something out. It doesn’t represent myself and my family.”
Coach Laurie Daley agreed, as did the most iconic Indigenous player of the lot, national coach Meninga.
“I can’t see any reason why we can’t ask all of Australia once again what is a true and contemporary song,” Meninga wrote on NRL.com. “Let’s have a referendum … Times have changed since the last decision … We’ve had major decisions around Indigenous Australia, such as native title recognition and cultural heritage being revived. If we have a national anthem that offends our Indigenous people, let’s see what all of Australia thinks.”
Strong stuff, yes?
And the reaction since? Extraordinarily muted. Whereas Kaepernick and all who supported him were vilified and all but hunted down by extremely powerful forces, here the Indigenous players have mostly received support.
Who, among the commentators, wants to start out by saying “Meninga is a dickhead and out of line?” From the looks of it, no one. There has not been a peep, even from the usual suspects whose stock in trade is vilification of all those who speak against the status quo, all those who might suggest the history of Australia is anything other than whites doing things the First Peoples should be grateful for.
So bravo, Walker, Meninga, Daley and the lot of them.
This is indeed a conversation we all need to have and it is not going to be an easy one. But having people of their stature involved will make it a much better, and more informed, conversation – and so much harder to dismiss as “lefty luvvie latte sippers carrying on, as they do.”
GOOD WITH THE BAD
The Waratahs/Hurricanes match? I watched every minute.
The good news was the idea of holding it at Brookie worked, 17,000 people turned up and appeared to enjoy it. For the foreseeable future, taking the Tahs to such suburban grounds has to be the way forward. Let’s try North Sydney Oval, Parramatta and Cronulla.
The bad news is the Tahs had done all the work to win, but fell away at the end. To reprise my rant of Thursday, the rot set in when the hooker didn’t throw the ball in straight with 10 minutes to go. The Hurricanes scored soon after. Did I mention – this is unacceptable! It was unacceptable among first-grade amateurs in 1982. How can it still be happening so regularly among professionals, nearly 40 years later? Throw the ball in straight? Kick the ball at least 10 metres on 50 metre kick-offs! Feed the ball in the scrum down the middle!
Time and again we see the ball lost on stupid errors, and for the life of me I cannot work out why it keeps happening. Thank you. Ishall now settle, petal, and get back to slyly implying I never made an error myself, but …
But BLOODY HELL!
Sorry. I will stop now.
What they said
Mal Meninga calls for a change in NRL policy, whereby anyone charged with a serious crime would be automatically stood down from playing: “Anything around domestic violence or sexual abuse, is a no-no in society. The game has to say no too. Everyone is sick of it. Their time’s up.”
Greg Inglis: “Player behaviour has probably been the worst it has [been.] It needs to be definitely addressed. Whatever Todd [Greenberg] and the commission come up with we have to respect it.”
Robbie Farah on Channel Nine: “To be honest I get embarrassed to go out and tell people I play NRL. It gets to that point where that is that stigma around it. While we keep stuffing up that’s not going to change. As a senior player (who has) been around for a while, it is disappointing.”
Daly Cherry-Evans on rugby league players: “We are rugby league players but we are human beings as well and we do make mistakes like everyone else.” Is it me, or that a strange mindset? Sort of like, even though we are superheroes, we have flaws? I am a sportswriter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I am a dickhead!
Chris Gayle: “I don’t know who is opening the bowling [for England] but any bowler is going to be wary of Chris Gayle. That doesn’t change because he is 39 now. They are going to be saying: ‘Yes, he’s got some grey hairs in his beard. Let’s get him now. This is the perfect time to get the universe boss now he is 39’.” Either that, Chris, or they’ll be saying “Did you hear what that wanker said this time?”
Shane Mumford on the old footage of him snorting a white powder: “I’ve tainted myself and my brand.”
Martina Navratilova not a fan of trans athletes: “It’s insane and it’s cheating. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair.”
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he is confident the form of Alexis Sanchez — whoever he is — will improve: “You know that bottle of ketchup that you squeeze when it never comes [out] — but when it suddenly comes there’s loads? I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
Waratahs No.10 Bernard Foley on missing the relatively easy penalty goal — at least by his own standards — with two minutes to go, that would have seen the Waratahs beat the Hurricanes at Brookvale Oval last Saturday evening in their Super Rugby opener: “I’m not driven by outcomes.” I simply don’t understand that corporate speak.
Team of the week
Peter Beattie. ARLC chair is taking the lead in sorting out what needs to be done to clean up league.
Mal Meninga. He’s had a lot to say this week, all of it good. See above.
Nico Lee. South African rugby player has received a 13-week ban after he ‘‘cleared the contents of his nose’’ on to an opposition player’s face. I’ve never heard of such a thing.
The University of Canberra Capitals. Won their eighth WNBL championship.
Sydney FC. Won the W-League grand final. Can’t beat those Sydney women!
Winx. Notched up her 30th win in a row. Better than Phar Lap.
Melbourne Renegades. Won first BBL title after the mother of all chokes from cross-town rivals the Stars.
Peter FitzSimons is a journalist and columnist with The Sydney Morning Herald.