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

Jimmy Smith Columnist

By Jimmy Smith, 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.

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    The Crowd Says (66)

    • March 15th 2017 @ 11:04am
      Boz said | March 15th 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report

      The NRL needs to make a decision about its association with gambling. Just as cigarette sponsorship has disappeared, I would rather that no Gambling advertising was allowed during the broadcast, as well as on signage around the ground or as a team sponsor. It can’t have it both ways.

      • Roar Guru

        March 15th 2017 @ 11:44am
        M.O.C. said | March 15th 2017 @ 11:44am | ! Report

        Agree Boz, I thought it was particularly unsavoury to watch the League over the weekend with this current drama being played out so publicly while continuing at every possible pre-game and mid-game review to include gambling options and odds. Apparently its all ok if you add the post-script “gamble responsibly”.

      • March 15th 2017 @ 12:12pm
        Jacko said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

        100%. I’m sick of the constant bararge of Betting adds

      • Columnist

        March 15th 2017 @ 12:13pm
        Jimmy Smith said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

        Regulation of the gambling industry is a must. This is the case in Australia. The NRL would be derelict in its duty to grow the game if it knocked back the money from bookmakers. It is a fine line but one that all sports tread carefully.

        • Roar Guru

          March 15th 2017 @ 12:31pm
          M.O.C. said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

          Why would they be derelict in their duties if they knocked back gambling money? – they were forced to knock back tobacco money in the late 80’s ie, Winfield Cup. They continue to use alcohol advertising money (which seems weird considering both tobacco and alcohol are legally obtainable). I would rather see tobacco ads even though I am a non-smoker rather than having to listen to gambling odds and options even though I am not a gambler.

          • Roar Guru

            March 15th 2017 @ 2:55pm
            Julian King said | March 15th 2017 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

            I take your point M.O.C about tobacco advertising. Sponsorships increased after the ban. The key difference though between smoking, drinking and gambling is that there is no “safe” level of smoking. Tobacco sponsorship is not preferable.

            It may well be the case that a ban on gambling advertising will have no material impact on clubs, but it won’t solve the problem of players illegally betting on matches.

            Hopefully the Simona case will prove the risk is high and act as a deterrent to others. Hard to catch though.

            G’day Jimmy! Thanks for the read.

        • March 15th 2017 @ 12:43pm
          Boz said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

          Jimmy, while I agree that the NRL must grow the game, they need to look at how they are perceived. Gambling is legal, but does the NRL really need to get into bed with them? I know a lot of NRL fans who are put off by the amount of advertising of betting agencies they see during a game. Growing the game isn’t just about the dollars.

          • March 15th 2017 @ 2:52pm
            no one in particular said | March 15th 2017 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

            For integrity reasons, they have to .

          • March 15th 2017 @ 5:34pm
            steve said | March 15th 2017 @ 5:34pm | ! Report

            In a country where sports sponsorship dollars are at a premium, the NRL and other sports cant be too picky about where they get their sponsor dollars from. There aren’t a plethora of companies out there willing to throw money at sports like certain industries can ( tobacco in the old days, Alcohol, Gambling ). I would suggest that bodies like the Australian Medical Association would be stoked to see companies like Maccas and KFC not allowed to sponsor sports because kids are fat etc. Where does it end in a marketplace of limited sponsor and corporate dollars available in the first place?

            Albeit I agree there needs to be a limit on gambling ads during broadcasting of games. While I enjoy gambling and think people can do what they want eg drink, smoke and gamble to their hearts content, the ads and the numbers of them are getting a little ridiculous now.

          • March 15th 2017 @ 8:42pm
            Jimmy Smith said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:42pm | ! Report

            True. But how else do you grow the game then with money Boz?

            • March 15th 2017 @ 10:48pm
              Boz said | March 15th 2017 @ 10:48pm | ! Report

              That’s why the Commission needs to have astute business people, not “football” people. When one door shuts another opens. If the NRL took the initiative and banned all gambling advertising, they may find other industries may feel more comfortable being associated with the Rugby League. The game needs to shed its blue collar, pub team, chook raffle image and aspire to be something better.

    • March 15th 2017 @ 12:12pm
      Perry Bridge said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

      It’s a problem when most of the Sydney based clubs have a revenue base and business model based on their Leagues Clubs and the Pokies. Up front – you gotta ask what business they’re in? Seems in some cases they’re better at operating a gaming house than they are a sporting club.

      • Columnist

        March 15th 2017 @ 12:14pm
        Jimmy Smith said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

        You could argue strongly that in a number of cases that is in fact true Perry.

      • March 15th 2017 @ 2:10pm
        DH said | March 15th 2017 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

        It’s time the league fronted this issue head-on.

        But they would have to face facts of significant reductions in revenue. There isn’t a head honcho brave enough at club or league level to take such a step. Many AFL clubs have taken that step, but others prefer to look upon their pokies as a diversification to insure them from on-field down periods which inevitably halt growth in memberships and attendances.

        Perhaps the equalisation such as salary caps etc also need to apply to revenue so that clubs can divest from their pokies. Although the leagues clubs are hardly going to close the pokies rooms, it’s pretty much the only reason they exist.

        A sad state of affiars and somewhat poetic justice that the pokies which fund the NRL are also holding it back.

    • March 15th 2017 @ 12:16pm
      Your kidding said | March 15th 2017 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

      Simona flew under the radar for a long time. If the rumours are true, then other players have been doing similar stuff. I’m sure that doesn’t surprise most.
      When you see a seemingly easy tackle missed, there are now some doubts.

    • March 15th 2017 @ 1:47pm
      Junior Coach said | March 15th 2017 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

      Its worse than that-if he was on $325K per annum his takehome pay is about $19400 per month- pretty sad that someone on that much had to revert to this.

    • March 15th 2017 @ 2:31pm
      Marc from Moss Vale said | March 15th 2017 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

      A sad story of a young man addicted to gambling playing a sport that is addicted to gambling. Even Something as traditional as the naming of Brookvale Oval can be pushed aside for the sake of the gambling dollar.

      • Columnist

        March 16th 2017 @ 8:53am
        Jimmy Smith said | March 16th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        I think you are going a little strong Marc when you say the sport is addicted to gambling. The code is attractive to punters and therefore has an obligation to 1. maintain it’s integrity and 2. maximise revenues from that popularity. These are not mutually exclusive desires.

    • March 15th 2017 @ 2:34pm
      Swanny said | March 15th 2017 @ 2:34pm | ! Report

      Gambling revenue is the new cigarette issue

      Remember the winfiield cup

      Ban the advertising for starters

      On a personal level. People individual. Clubs teams need to look out for each other but Also the individual must own up to there issues and seek help , just like every level of society

      Also if these players got jobs or studied they might get some reality in their life

      • March 15th 2017 @ 5:00pm
        Albo said | March 15th 2017 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

        Some people have addictive personalities. Seems like Simona might be one of them. He didn’t gamble because bookies sponsor the NRL. He didn’t snort coke because of the NRL sponsorship arrangements. He didn’t steal from charities and lie to his employers because of Spotsbet’s sponsorship of the NRL. If there was no legal betting on the NRL he would have gambled illegally elsewhere or gambled on something else, or got himself addicted to some other pursuit usually frowned upon. The only thing that the NRL can learn from this saga is that there will always be a percentage of players in the game ( as with all demographics) with addictive personalities who need to be identified , educated and monitored to ensure their own well being, and the for the sake of the NRL game. Most of these types are easily recognisable by the anyone who cares to take a decent look. If they refuse to play to the rules of their employment , they must be sacked , just like any other employee who ignores the rules of his employer’s terms of tenure. The 90% of the population who aren’t addicted to gambling, drinking, stealing, etc should not be denied access to sponsorship products that assist the NRL because a few have a problem over indulging with such products !

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