The Roar
The Roar


James Roberts' $20k fine isn't fair, it's relative

Imagine the entertainment to be found from mid-season transfers. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
25th August, 2016
1607 Reads

If I was fined $20,000 for every stupid thing I’d done on the drink, I would be $4.76 million worse off.

Growing up in your early twenties in Canberra you’d go to the Private Bin and get right on it. It was a 24-hour booze barn and we drank like mad Irish fish.

Myself and three mates once stumbled out of there at 6am, got in a car and drove to Sydney. Drank stubbies all the way.

We laughed about it then. Shake heads now. Shiver up the spine stuff. Lucky to be alive. Luckier still we didn’t kill someone.

James Roberts has done a few stupid things on the drink – that we, the people, know of – and is at his fourth NRL club.

The most recent incidents have seen him fined $20,000 by Brisbane Broncos for bringing their brand into disrepute.

On separate occasions, reportedly, depending what you read, he got on the piss, was refused service by a bar maid, spat on a staff member, was choked to sleep by a bouncer, woke up in an ambulance, escaped it, and continued on on his not-so-merry way into the night.

Roberts was not arrested on either evening but was issued a fine for public nuisance. And the Broncos topped that up by $20,000.

Fair cop? It’s not about fair. It’s relative. If 22-year-old me had carried like on that, effectively nothing would have happened apart from said fine. Bouncer and ambos would shake their heads. They might ban me from the pub.


But I wouldn’t have been fined $20,000 by the Department of Defence for what was effectively stock-standard anti-social stupid drunk stuff by a 20-something dickhead.

But Roberts is judged differently. He’s a famous footy player and held to a different standard. He’s judged differently because he’s paid differently. (Click to Tweet)

And fact is he’s not a 22-year-old public servant. He’s a famous employee of a footy club. He’s on, what, four hundred grand?

And when you’re a famous footy player, the club and the governing body – the code – sees you as the living, breathing embodiment of their all-important brand. You’re an ambassador every time you walk out the house. You represent.

And branding is important. Because branding is money. And if you represent that, if you’re responsible for the brand – if you’re one of the fonts of the money and paid commensurately – then you’re an important person and expected to be responsible.

I’m not saying it’s right, necessarily, that Roberts cops a $20k fine and the “normal” dickhead doesn’t. That said it’d probably be good if all young men were fined $20,000 for being dickheads, we might have a nicer society.

Either way, it is what it is. And it’s because of television.

Advertisers and sponsors don’t want their brand associated with your brand if your brand’s representative – the famous footballer – gets on the television for being a dickhead.


Of course those Roosters fans lining up to decry the relative lenience of Roberts’ punishment – $20k, no suspension – to that of their man Mitchell Pearce – $125,000 and eight weeks out that effectively shafted the club’s entire season – have a pretty good point.

The big difference, it seems, in the NRL’s mind between the Pearce thing – which was a tasteless dumb gag – versus the Roberts thing – which sounds like an anti-social drunken rampage – was because the former’s antics were captured on video.

No video, it’s like it didn’t happen.

Roberts’ antic have only been outed in print. It’s a bad thing to read – “he spat on a bar maid” – but if you see it on video, it’s like he’s spat on you. The horror!

If we don’t see him doing it on the news or YouTube or wherever, we don’t feel like it’s actually happened.

And the NRL knows it. They know us, the people. Know what we’ll cop. And the advertisers know it. And the Broncos know it. And the lesson for you, 20-something tearaway footy player on the lash – is don’t get caught on tape.

Roberts hasn’t been outed on tape, at least not yet (though you’d think there’s security footage waiting to be sold somewhere). And thus the NRL, perhaps admitting to themselves that Pearce’s punishment was far too strong, have deemed that the Broncos punishment is OK. That twenty large is not to be sneezed at.

The NRL has the power to come over the top and add further punishments if they don’t feel the club has been strong enough. In this case they’ve given the Broncos a pass.


The money, the counselling, the programs, the community service, the “total plan for James’ development and wellbeing,” according to the club.. The sympathy for a troubled soul, the empathy of men for young ones.

But fair? Nothing to do with fair. It is what it is.

And Jimmy Roberts is lucky to still be playing footy. Lucky he’s very good at it, anyway.