After three weeks of playing solid rugby league, the Australian media seem prepared to once again let bygones be bygones and forgive Todd Carney.
This week the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story regarding Carney as the lead candidate over Jamie Soward as the five-eighth for New South Wales Origin.
Though there is truth to the story, it was the first word of the headline which seemed a little premature – “Redemption”.
Fairfax aren’t the only ones who have been quick to consider Carney’s past indiscretions as past, with the Daily Telegraph‘s Phil Rothfield also recently writing a story about Carney’s rebirth.
“12 months ago I was sitting at this very keyboard typing out a column about why Todd Carney should go to jail,” Rothfield wrote.
“I thought he was gone, irredeemable and had no hope of getting his life sorted after another drink-driving episode.
“I was wrong and I apologise. People can change and we shouldn’t be so quick to write off troubled individuals.”
It is wrong to dredge through Carney’s past with the sole purpose of bringing him down. However, it is irresponsible to start bandying around words like ‘redemption’, ‘apologise’ and ‘change’ when talking about a bloke like Todd Carney.
Because he’s not a larrikin Aussie sportsman who enjoys a beer. He’s a young man with a long history of misdemeanours, indiscretions and some pretty serious crimes.
Carney made his NRL debut for the Canberra Raiders in 2004 at the tender age of 17, but his breakthrough year came a couple of seasons later.
In 2006 he starred for the Raiders as their leading try scorer. However, it was also the first time his name appeared in the paper for the wrong reasons. Carney had his license torn up for five years after being charged with drink driving and reckless driving.
In 2007 Carney led the police on a high speed chase through the streets of Canberra and made a getaway on foot before turning himself in the following day. He was again charged, found guilty and given community service.
His Canberra teammate Steve Irwin, who was in the car with him, was not charged at all. However, the Raiders saw fit to sack Irwin from the club. Irwin later said he had been instructed by Raiders officials to lie to police about Carney’s alcohol consumption so Carney would avoid prison.
2008 saw Carney once again hauled before his club’s officials, after he was accused of urinating on a patron at a nightclub.
This time the Raiders didn’t give Carney a chance, they gave him a five point plan. A total alcohol ban was point number two. Carney didn’t agree, was sacked and deregistered by the NRL for the 2009 season.
Carney spent 2009 playing for the Atherton Roosters in North Queensland, however before he left he was given a farewell gift from a magistrate in his hometown of Goulburn – a 12-month good behaviour bond and a 12-month ban from the town.
This sentence related to a series of unrelated incidents Carney committed in Goulburn, including smashing the glass door of a phone shop and jumping on a car bonnet.
The Sydney Roosters signed Carney for the 2010 season and, following a small incident in preseason where Carney set one of his mate’s arses on fire, he swore off the booze.
In what was by far his most successful season, he steered the Roosters to the grand final, won the Dally M medal, represented his country and had his driver’s license reinstated.
Naturally, stories of redemption flowed. Then came 2011.
It got off to a flyer in February, with Carney once again hauled before a judge for drink driving. It was low range and so, once again, he avoided prison. The Roosters stood by him after he swore to stop drinking.
Then in April he went out drinking with Anthony Watts in an episode which ended with Watts’ girlfriend sporting a couple of black eyes (which to be fair had nothing directly to do with Carney). This time Carney was stood down for a few weeks.
Finally in August, he went to get tattoos with teammates Nate Myles and Frank-Paul Nu’uausala and, after doing so, the three also got drunk. Though this night ended without incident, it should never have happened because the entire Roosters first-grade squad had sworn to a booze ban.
Enough was enough and the Roosters cut Carney loose.
So now he finds himself at the Sharks and he’s playing well.
As long as his form is good enough, there is no reason why anything he has done in the past should stop him from playing for his state or his country. But it is far too soon to assume he has changed his ways or redeemed himself.
Not because he hasn’t recaptured his stellar form of 2010 and not because he is yet to return to representative level.
Rather, because when someone stuffs his life up away from football, the football field isn’t where he needs to redeem it.