What rugby league can learn from Tim Simona’s sad story

Jimmy Smith Columnist

By , Jimmy Smith is a Roar Expert

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    Okay, let’s get murky. Underworldly. Pop the hood of the NRL and the life of its players and see exactly what is under there.

    The Tim Simona revelations in the Sunday Telegraph were as sordid as it can get.

    Betting against your team, betting against yourself, ripping off charitable organisations, and succumbing to a poker machine and cocaine use gives Tim the quadrella.

    To top all this off, he lied to the NRL Integrity Unit, lied to the club and, most assuredly, lied to himself.

    This is such a shame.

    First, there was Tim’s talent. He was one those guys you shake your head at how athletic they are, wishing you were blessed with just a little bit of that (I blame Mum and Dad).

    Secondly, it brought more unwanted headlines to the game at a time when the football was doing so much talking and everyone seemed to like what they were hearing. On two consecutive Sundays, the biggest selling newspaper in the country splashed front pages featuring NRL players in a less than favourable light. Rounds 1 and 2 were almost shot down in a blaze of negative publicity.

    Does Tim deserve a lifetime ban? It’s hard to see what you have to do to get one if he doesn’t. In saying that, I have always been a strong supporter of rehabilitation, no matter your walk of life. Indefinite works, as long as we never see him in the league again.

    Imagine being Simona and going for a job interview right now. Maybe that is as big a challenge as getting back in the league. Rightly, he is being supported through this transition by the NRL and the RLPA.

    Was the club at fault? Should they have known what he was doing? It was reported in the Telegraph piece that the Wests Tigers gave Tim an advance on a number of occasions because of financial difficulties.

    If I was CEO and had a player being paid $325,000 a year asking for an advance, it would set off some pretty loud alarm bells.

    Based on the ATO estimator, Tim would have been paid about $16,500 a month (with around $10,000 withheld for taxation purposes). I am not sure how everyone else lives, but I could get by on that and I have a wife, three children and a mortgage. Surely you dig deeper.

    Apparently, Tim lied to the club. So why not take the opportunity to lie away from the player? Tell them to provide documents, supporting evidence, family-based live testimony, or no advance. Maybe the Tigers did do that.

    Tim Simona will be punished by the NRL for betting on matches

    As for how the cash-strapped Tigers had enough money to pay Tim his advance? Remember, the club is now 75 per cent owned by the Wests side of the merger. Wests Leagues Club at Ashfield is a powerhouse and has increasingly supported the franchise financially over the last four years.

    How did they manage that? I’d say it was on the back of increasingly huge revenues from poker machines.

    About 12 months ago a person who claimed they knew that NRL players were betting on games contacted me on social media. Given the seriousness of the accusation I asked them to back it up – provide some evidence and we can take this further. No evidence was forthcoming. After the Simona revelations, they were back in contact.

    My bullish denials of 12 months ago were not so bullish this time around. Could it be happening again now? Possibly, it would seem. Next time a player misses a tackle, do we start asking questions? That is the heart of the matter – the integrity of the sport. The purity of the contest cannot be in question, even though it has been questioned now for a week.

    By his own admission, Simona was a heavy cocaine user at different stages over the last three years. All that time he was able to avoid drug testers and never returned a positive test (to my knowledge).

    Much has been written and spoken over the last seven days about athlete welfare and education, with the latter supposed to act as a deterrent. The way Simona spoke in his big reveal in the Telegraph about using cocaine on a Friday, because he knew it would be out of his system by the following Monday, sounds like he used that knowledge as a device. Education cuts both ways.

    It is only natural a proportion of NRL players take cocaine. In a guess, I would say it was a lower percentage than the average population in their demographic. Those who do are taking a risk, but their whole professional life is a risk – why stop now?

    I hope that Tim Simona’s actions are of one who stands alone. If he isn’t, it will not be too long until rugby league followers will have no one to stand with.

    Jimmy Smith
    Jimmy Smith

    A well-known and respected NRL commentator, Jimmy Smith played professional rugby league in an 11-year career that included stints in both the NRL with the Roosters, Western Suburbs and South Sydney, and England's Super League with Salford. He earned over 150 first grade caps before hanging up the boots and switching to the commentary box. You can find him on Twitter @ThatJimmySmith.