Cronulla Sharks winger Beau Ryan has established himself as a popular media figure through his varying comical skits and stunts on the Channel Nine program, The Footy Show.
These skits range from awkward interactions with the public in a segment he likes to call ‘Beau Knows’, to the direct parodying of on-field personalities and players in a separate segment known as SBW TV (the acronym changes depending on the player featured).
In the latter, Ryan mockingly dresses to the appearance of his target, for the most part a high profile player, and satirises a particular feature of the player. For example, the accent of English front-rower and regular Footy Show panelist Sam Burgess, or the Lebanese mannerisms of his former Wests Tigers teammate Robbie Farah.
The skits are largely seen as harmless jibes. There is a mutual feeling of contentedness between these players as they are, in most cases, former teammates or work colleagues.
However the complexion of this segment took an easily-identifiable turn for the worse this season when Ryan introduced his new character, Panthers playmaker Jamie Soward, and took aim at the 2010 premiership winning five-eighth’s reputation as a whinger and sook.
The much-maligned Soward is a polarising figure in rugby league. His talent on the field is undeniable, yet there has always been a contingent of fans that have despised what comes along with it. Whether it be his pre-goal kick prancing or his post-match defiant, me-against-the-world mentality in interviews, Soward just hasn’t clicked with the general viewing audience.
Ryan quite shamelessly takes advantage of this and uses Soward’s unwanted tag to further enforce the image of a stereotypical tattle-tail school kid, who loves nothing more than to complain. The cringe-worthy viewing is accompanied by Ryan’s exaggerated lisping and immaturely scrunched up face.
It is easy to see why his target is not a fan of the schtick. Ryan is no longer taking harmless jibes. Ryan is attacking character.
Is the weekly segment, watched by children and acted out by a popular figure, a mirage that disguises comedy for bullying? Soward is clearly not a willing participant to this segment. A recent interview with Channel Nine highlights his ill-feelings towards the man who continues to berate him from a tall media platform. He is frustrated with being a common target, not just by fans but by players too.
As one of the physically smaller players in the game, when the tensions boil over on the field you would expect Soward to be closer to the sidelines than in the middle of the volcano, but the reality is Soward is a genuine target. He seems to have little choice.
In 2008, when a brawl erupted between Dragon and Storm players in Melbourne, Soward had to fend off the physically imposing Adam Blair, who widely grinned as he pushed around his much smaller adversary.
Fast forward to 2013 and Soward is again in the middle of a fracas, this time responding to the taunts of Tigers players and mistakenly retaliates at the wrong player, Tigers’ captain Robbie Farah. An irate Farah measuredly says in the post-match conference he will “leave it on the field”.
That was until, of course, the opportunity was too good to pass up. Almost 12 months to the day and it looks as if Farah has gone back onto the SCG surface, picked up the remains of that altercation, and dragged it into his social media life by leaping to the unnecessary defence of his good friend Beau Ryan.
— robbie farah (@robbiefarah) April 7, 2014
This is the same Robbie Farah who lost control of his temper in a studio interview with Fox presenter and former player Matty Johns, swearing on-air and accusing the host of “ambushing” him. The same Robbie Farah who called on the federal government to prevent internet trolling, yet suggested on the very same platform that former Prime Minister Julia Gillard get a noose for her birthday.
If the pot has a twitter account, it just called the kettle a sook.
This twitter feud is not a good look for the game of rugby league and it could have all been avoided had Ryan stuck to his usual spiel, laughing at his friends, not publicly diminishing the character of a man he and his friends dislike.
A bully uses their superior strength to influence or intimidate. And for once, it looks like Beau knows exactly what he is doing.