I have spent the better half of the last week in Darwin. The Parramatta Eels have a relationship with the Northern Territory Government which sees them take two games a year to the top end – the first is a trial in Alice Springs and the second, a regular season game in Darwin.
The Eels also spent the better half of last week in the top end. While there was plenty of training to be done ahead of their clash against the Gold Coast Titans, this wasn’t the only thing that kept the Eels busy while they were up here.
From Wednesday to Friday of last week the Eels had an intense schedule which saw players participate in the first NRL Indigenous Youth Summit for two days with players helping to educate 50 local Indigenous students through leadership and cultural workshops. There were visits to hospitals, visits to over 500 students from local primary schools, Daniel Alvaro and Bevan French spent time at the Northern Territory Institute of Sport and it culminated in the Eels and Titans linking arms on the field ahead of their clash to say ‘no more’ to family violence.
The key messages during the week were respect and inclusion, the importance of goal setting, that family violence in any form is completely unacceptable and the importance of education even for those wanting to pursue a career in sport.
Two players in particular, stood out to me over the week – Luke Kelly and Mitch Cornish. Despite both being injured, both players made the trip to Darwin and were in attendance at almost every single community event with big smiles on their faces and plenty of time for their youngest fans. Luke Kelly is originally from Katherine, so the trip acts as a sort of home coming for him but Mitch Cornish, in leg brace and all, was just as committed to spreading positive messages during his time in Darwin.
Despite the tremendous work that the Eels have done while in the top end, the reach of important social messages and the smiles that they have brought to many local faces, at exactly the same time there is another force at play. This force is dangerous, sinister and has the potential to destroy any attempt that the Eels make to put themselves forward in a positive light.
I am, of course, referring to the debacle that is the club’s current management.
In the same week as the Eels were in Darwin working in the community, news broke that the Eels will carry over $1.3 million worth of illegally promised payments in their salary cap over the next three years and that a coup has officially been launched to overthrow the current board. Which pieces of news do you think have got the most clicks?
When the news of Parramatta’s salary cap breaches broke, it was hard. But I in no way expected that what would be much harder to deal with would be the fall-out from the breaches. The loss of key players like Nathan Peats, rumours about other clubs circling our coach, speculation about further player fall-out including Michael Gordon and the leaked board minutes where our directors discuss and then minute the ways that they are going to breach the cap have certainly taken their toll.
It is some of these same directors that since the news of the breaches have surfaced, have refused to step down citing fear of other factions seising power. They have not issued an apology to the fans or the players and who have decided, that rather than working with the NRL to fix the mess the club is in, have decided it be more appropriate to use club money to defend their own reputations in court. A court action which apart from being expensive, has been unsuccessful.
Apart from demonstrating a lack of care about the club and a selfish desire to protect their own reputations ahead of the club’s best interests, what this debacle has once again illustrated to me is what happens when individuals are placed in positions of power that they do not have the skills to fulfil.
The actions of the board have demonstrated stubbornness, pig-headedness and a lack of basic understanding of what it means to be a director of a multi-million dollar business. At multiple times, the NRL gave the club the opportunity to declare any salary cap issues – each time the response was the same ‘we have nothing to delcare’.
At times, in rugby league (particularly in years gone past), there has been a prevailing attitude that to be involved in a club at a board level you need to have ‘laced on a pair of boots’. This attitude frightens me. Just because you have ‘laced on a pair of boots’ does not make you qualified to sit on a board of a multi-million dollar business, and let’s not kid ourselves, that’s exactly what our clubs are.
The key message instead should be that if that if you want to be involved in a football club, there is always a place for you. A football club is a community and there is always room for more to join the family, however, each person has a place and if each person finds their appropriate place, that is when a club functions at its best.
Your place may be as a member, it may be as a fan, it may be working in the club, it may be as a board member, it might be as a volunteer at a grassroots level. Whatever your place, it is important and valued.
To the members of the current board and the people in positions of influence that have contributed to the destruction engulfing my club at the moment – your place is away from my club. Never ever to return. Step down. I would much rather read about Mitch Cornish and Luke Kelly in the paper and help to be part of the change that helps move my club from the laughing stock of the league, to the powerhouse we deserve to be.
This is @mary__kaye from @ladieswholeague