How should the NRL and the Tigers handle Jamal Idris?

Will Knight Columnist

By Will Knight, Will Knight is a Roar Expert

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    Jamal Idris seems like the guy I’d want at my six-year-old boy’s birthday party; he’d be the headline entertainment act for the kids and I reckon he’d be a hit whether he was whacking a pinata or talking Pokemon.

    They would listen to him – he’s six-foot-five and 110kg.

    They would laugh with him – he’s nearly always wearing a playful smile. He giggles like a big kid.

    He’s also the guy I’d like to have a beer with and the type of personality the NRL should cherish.

    He belts opposition back-rowers on the field but isn’t all alpha off it.

    He’s athletic and skilful but would just as rather talk about how he’s trying to build an orphanage in Ghana, he played for NSW and Australia before his 21st birthday but last year as a 25-year-old shunned big bucks to travel the world.

    He’s far from a hats-off-full-credit-110 per cent NRL cliche.

    He gave a lot of himself early on when he started with Canterbury and then Gold Coast, talking openly and candidly in numerous interviews and more often than not contemplating life rather than the following weekend’s left-side attacking threats.

    But he evidently offered up too much of himself.

    He admitted he subsequently couldn’t go to the local shopping centre without copping it from rival fans.

    The fame made him paranoid and depressed.

    His relative complexity and draining anxiety contributed to Idris walking away from the NRL at the end of the 2015 season to find himself.

    He went from snowboarding in Canada, partying at Coachella in California, seeing Stonehenge in England, being almost kidnapped in Vietnam and hiking through the bottom of the Himalayas.

    “It is so amazing to be able to walk around where people don’t recognise you, where people aren’t judging your every little action,” he told News Limited only two weeks ago.

    So as Idris prepares to make his debut with the Wests Tigers – his fourth NRL club – it’s worth asking how he should approach his return to the NRL so the chances of any mental demons returning are minimised.

    Should he shun the media so as not to open himself up again to the public – the kind of exposure that was the catalyst for his exile from the game almost 18 months ago?

    Even if he does, would a poor game mean he potentially gets ridiculed publicly?

    Does the media have a responsibility, given his past, to give Idris space as he finds his feet and ensure his return is relatively low-key?

    If he decides to cocoon himself away or is advised to by the welfare officers at the Wests Tigers or NRL, is that even more dangerous?

    Isolating someone, even if they say they prefer it can be counter-productive.

    It’s just that kind of separation from the outside world that has been blamed for professional athletes struggling to cope with the transition post-playing.

    My hope is we will see plenty of Idris in front of the camera this season and beyond.

    He’s entertaining and his energy and honesty are infectious. Hopefully, Idris’s travels and time away from the NRL have given him a new perspective and he feels comfortable being the refreshing and heartfelt character he’s been previously.

    Will Knight
    Will Knight

    An AAP writer for more than a decade, Will Knight does his best to make sense of all things cricket, rugby union and rugby league, all while trying to have a laugh along the way. You can find him on Twitter @WKnightrider.

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    The Crowd Says (19)

    • March 3rd 2017 @ 7:35am
      Jeff dustby said | March 3rd 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

      I think you only tell us one side of the story here. Jamal and alcohol haven’t been mentioned

      • March 3rd 2017 @ 8:47am
        AGO74 said | March 3rd 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

        alcohol problems is often a manifestation of mental health issues. His state was such that he walked away from the game. Getting assistance there as well as the “gap year” has hopefully helped address these issues – but as with mental health issues they will need to be managed ongoing.

      • Roar Rookie

        March 3rd 2017 @ 11:15am
        Paulio O'Driscoll said | March 3rd 2017 @ 11:15am | ! Report

        Well said Jeff!

      • Columnist

        March 3rd 2017 @ 1:17pm
        Will Knight said | March 3rd 2017 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

        Perhaps it was a factor. But even alcohol aside, should he be advised to stand back from the limelight, at least for a while? He’s admitted he suffered from the exposure previously. Although I note he’s done a Daily Telegraph profile in today’s paper.

    • March 3rd 2017 @ 9:59am
      Oingo Boingo said | March 3rd 2017 @ 9:59am | ! Report

      He’ll be right , I expect a big year from this bloke .

      • Columnist

        March 3rd 2017 @ 1:18pm
        Will Knight said | March 3rd 2017 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

        Hopefully the big marn fires – on and off the field!

    • March 3rd 2017 @ 10:16am
      Silvertail47 said | March 3rd 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

      Average at best

    • Roar Rookie

      March 3rd 2017 @ 11:14am
      Paulio O'Driscoll said | March 3rd 2017 @ 11:14am | ! Report

      Bloody hell Will Knight! You make out like he was on a “magical pilgrimage” to far away lands to “find himself”! I can tell you now that if you ask the ” normal Australian” what it would be like to play for your state, club and country for more money than you can count! I’m sure they would tell you they would knuckle down, work hard, train their but off and love that their ” job” is to play the game they love and spending time with mates! would be ideal! to put it plainly … all of his coaching staff said he was lazy at training and at time wouldn’t turn up on time, lacked respect and wasn’t a team player! I noticed you left that out of the article! I give him one year and Gouldy will realize a bad investment when he sees it! An average player at best, seen the best of him at Bulldogs and then that was it ….

    • March 3rd 2017 @ 11:57am
      Big Daddy said | March 3rd 2017 @ 11:57am | ! Report

      Alcohol, gambling, drugs!!
      Its a common theme in sporting DNA whether it be NRL, afl, or union or soccer.
      Its also part of our Aussie upbringing so why should our sporting players get aleg up when the the man in the street doesn’t.
      Some of these young players need to realise it is now a business not a park game and should either toe the line or get out.

      • Columnist

        March 3rd 2017 @ 1:23pm
        Will Knight said | March 3rd 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

        Yeah a tough one. I don’t like the way a lot of them get pampered. Especially when they get to 25 years of age. The excuses run thin from then on, even if they’ve grown up in the professional sporting bubble. And what about the post-career attention some of them think they deserve. Ridiculous.

    • March 3rd 2017 @ 11:59am
      Steve said | March 3rd 2017 @ 11:59am | ! Report

      I hope he misses six tackles and lumbers around on the fringes in attack, easy-pickings for anyone who can tackle around the legs. If he was white and from Seven Hills or Oak Flats, he’d be considered just another bogan big bloke who almost made it.

      • March 3rd 2017 @ 12:32pm
        Jacko said | March 3rd 2017 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

        Would he be called Dave taylor?

        • March 3rd 2017 @ 3:17pm
          peeeko said | March 3rd 2017 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

          probably

      • Columnist

        March 3rd 2017 @ 1:20pm
        Will Knight said | March 3rd 2017 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

        He’s certainly different in a lot of ways. And I reckon that’s a good thing. NRL players have become very homogenous over the years – sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the body shape of a back-rower, prop and centre! He offers something a bit off-beat and that’s good to watch.

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