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Players are only human, but drugs are bad for rugby league

Greg Prichard Columnist

By Greg Prichard, Greg Prichard is a Roar Expert

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29 Have your say

    They’ll be back playing NRL on Thursday night, but given the past week’s happenings, does anyone give a rat’s?

    Of course they do, but if anyone wanted to discuss the delights of rugby league in the purest sense this week they have so far been drowned out by the noise coming from the only discussion in town.

    The one about drugs.

    At times like this, there is always the debate over whether drugs are a league problem or a societal problem.

    But there really is no need for a debate, because the answer to both questions is so clearly yes.

    Obviously, drugs are a societal problem because of the massive damage they do to people, and that can affect league along with countless other walks of life.

    They are specifically a rugby league problem because when you get the sort of incidents that have occurred in the last week, it damages the game.

    As nauseating as the use of the word might be, it hurts the game’s ‘brand’. The negative publicity affects the game’s ability to attract sponsorship.

    Ben Barba crossing for a try

    (AAP Image/David Moir)

    And, although I’ve got no evidence to support this, I’ll wager it’s another reason for some parents who are undecided about which sport little Johnny plays, and are already worried about the potential for him to get hurt, to pick, say, football over league.

    It’s a bad look when players are getting into drug-related trouble, but when a club chairman in his 50s is charged with drug possession it’s positively embarrassing.

    The fact the game and its clubs hand out their own strenuous penalties in reaction to drug-related incidents, on top of what might happen in the courts, defines it as a league problem.

    The debate is just a distraction, but one thing that must be said on the game’s behalf is that it does its utmost to educate the players.

    They can’t not be aware of what risks are involved, but some players are obviously still prepared to take those risks. As the old saying goes, you can’t educate mugs.

    New Zealand Test players Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor have been dealt with very firmly, having been kicked out of their country’s World Cup campaign later this year on top of club sanctions.

    But they’ve only got themselves to blame. Had they not put themselves in a stupid position they wouldn’t have anything to worry about.

    Jesse Bromwich New Zealand Kiwis Rugby League Anzac Test 2017

    (NRL Photos)

    It’s the same for others who have made mistakes during this period, but will the stiff penalties and media glare scare off every other player who might be susceptible to taking similar risks?

    It will presumably be a major deterrent in the short term, but players are only human and humans make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect.

    When a club gets caught cheating the salary cap and is hit with huge penalties it doesn’t mean it’s the end of that practice. Eventually, another club pushes the envelope too far and gets caught.

    Why would it be any different with players and drugs? Sooner or later, someone else will stuff up.

    But the game itself will never be perfect either. For a start, it’s happy to take the gambling dollar. That’s a whole other debate right there.

    Greg Prichard
    Greg Prichard

    Greg Prichard has spent all of his working life in the media, from way back when journalists were still using typewriters. He has covered rugby league, football, AFL and various other sports for News Limited and Fairfax newspapers and also worked for magazines, radio and pay television. Twitter: @gregprichard

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    The Crowd Says (29)

    • May 10th 2017 @ 6:40am
      strayan said | May 10th 2017 @ 6:40am | ! Report

      People have different drug preferences and football players are people too.

      Why should people with a minority drug preference have their liberty denied while others are allowed an equal or more harmful liberty such as drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco?

      Drug use should be decriminalised. It may not be a good idea, but it should not be considered a criminal act.

      NRL players who are ‘outed’ for using cocaine should not apologise. They should not feel ashamed nor be bullied into repenting for having drug preferences that may differ from the drug preference of the majority (alcohol).

      • May 10th 2017 @ 9:16am
        spruce moose said | May 10th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

        What garbage.

        The argument of whether drugs should or shouldn’t be decriminalised here is not the issue at hand. The issue is that people broke the laws as they are now. Look at this factually.

        1. Alcohol is legal. Fact.
        2. Tobacco is legal. Fact
        3. Cocaine is illegal. Fact
        4. NRL players have been caught using/holding an illegal substance. Fact.
        5. NRL players have broken the law. Fact.
        6. NRL players who break the law bring the game into disrepute (to varying margins of course). Fact.

        • May 10th 2017 @ 11:04am
          Jacko said | May 10th 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report

          Did you even read what he wrote? He is not talking facts, he is talking what he thinks should be the case. He has never argued the facts. Just wants to change some of them.

          • May 10th 2017 @ 11:53am
            spruce moose said | May 10th 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

            It’s irrelevant to the discussion though Jacko.

            What the world should be shouldn’t hide the fact that players knowingly broke the law, and their contractual obligations.

            Hiding behind the ‘the law is the problem/the law is silly’ argument is a pitiful excuse and fails to hold the players to appropriate account.

            The law is the law. You can’t hide and say one shouldn’t apologise for having a preference that sits outside of the laws that the majority of this democratic society accept. If the players want to do cocaine, and they want to do it legally, then maybe they should start a grassroots political movement to have the law changed. Until that time, they have to take their medicine and apologise (preferably in a court of law).

            I’m sure people ‘prefer’ to steal cars than buy them. But stealing is illegal. Maybe that law should be changed…

            • Roar Guru

              May 10th 2017 @ 1:16pm
              M.O.C. said | May 10th 2017 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

              I agree with you 100% Spruce Moose. I don’t drink or do drugs and I think that all drugs should be legalised, controlled and taxed, however at this point in time, this is not the case. These drugs are currently illegal and as such, people who choose to use them are choosing to break the law.

              If part of your job is to maintain a certain public image for your company and you are recognisable in public, then the choice is simple – don’t break the law which includes using illegal drugs.

            • Roar Rookie

              May 10th 2017 @ 2:01pm
              Hard Yards said | May 10th 2017 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

              Spruce, yes mate you are right. Who hasn’t had a drag or more of a bit of weed? Well, we’re all criminals. Just not convicted criminals, Probably half the adult population under 40 takes dope, ectasy, speed or coke once a year or more. Half our adult population are criminals. Just not convicted.

              Embarrassing? It’s the State governments that should be embarrassed. A very large section of the adult population clearly wants these products. Grown ups. In a free society.

              Except there is a bunch of cardigans sitting in offices saying that any of these people, our countrymen,should be open to be charged and left with a criminal record.

              Its makes you think that there must be a lot of dough passing around to keep this stuff illegal and keep the prices up, with no tax or quality control. Lets not be childish. If the Australian nation wanted to eradicate drugs it would deploy all resources available to it, and it would be over in a week.

              Do I care if some bloke takes a line of coke or smokes a joint? I couldn’t give a rats. Stamp him as a criminal? That’s just absurd.

              The criminal law should be about stopping people ripping people off or hurting other people.
              If they ban Riesling I’ll be the guy in the dark suit in the dock.

              • May 10th 2017 @ 2:51pm
                spruce moose said | May 10th 2017 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

                I hear ya

                I don’t deny that people will want to take drugs, BUT under the current laws

                1. It is neither a right or privilege.
                2. If you take them and IF you get caught, you MUST accept the consequences of your actions. If that means a criminal conviction under the current laws, then so be it.

                If you don’t like the laws, advocate change by getting politically involved.

                “Lets not be childish. If the Australian nation wanted to eradicate drugs it would deploy all resources available to it, and it would be over in a week.” naive comment. The United States have an entire agency devoted to the eradication of drugs on a $2 billion a year budget with over 10,000 employees directly under it, not to mention countless thousands of other people and countless billions in other agencies in a support manner. They haven’t come close.

              • May 10th 2017 @ 3:15pm
                Slane said | May 10th 2017 @ 3:15pm | ! Report

                ‘naive comment. The United States have an entire agency devoted to the eradication of drugs on a $2 billion a year budget with over 10,000 employees directly under it, not to mention countless thousands of other people and countless billions in other agencies in a support manner. They haven’t come close.’

                You didn’t read his comment properly. He was clearly saying that if we the people wanted to get rid of drugs they would be gone. There are plenty of government agencies in the world ‘fighting the war’ but it’s all pointless unless we as a nation want to get rid of them. Hot tip: we don’t want to get rid of drugs. Half of the population use illegal substances every year.

            • May 11th 2017 @ 7:35am
              Justin Kearney said | May 11th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

              Jacko struggles with logic.

      • May 10th 2017 @ 11:10am
        William Cheng said | May 10th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

        This is a joke right? Apart from hard drugs being highly addictive, inebriating (like alcohol) and dangerous, these athletes are TOLD they will be role models. That is, they’re to be setting examples to those in the wider society (especially younger, impressionable children).

        The attitude of “I’m just going to do my own thing and no one can judge me” is not only pathetic and selfish, but destructive too. No player is bigger than the code and they did the right thing with penalising them.

      • May 10th 2017 @ 11:28am
        thomas c said | May 10th 2017 @ 11:28am | ! Report

        People feel the way they do and the reality is that NRL players need to respect the sensibilities of the people who justify their paychecks. (on a different note, basic social contract theory argues that ” individuals have consented, either explicitly or tacitly, to surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority of the ruler or magistrate (or to the decision of a majority), in exchange for protection of their remaining rights.” (wiki). Our current social contract is what it is (even if some elements of behavior are arguably arbitrary). You might not like it, but a scenario in which every individual is given absolute carte blanche or thinks they have moral authority to overrule is not a society. )

    • Roar Guru

      May 10th 2017 @ 6:55am
      The Barry said | May 10th 2017 @ 6:55am | ! Report

      Good to see the NRL back this week. Some great games starting tomorrow night with the Dogs v Cowboys. An important clash for both teams.

      • Roar Guru

        May 10th 2017 @ 1:54pm
        Magnus M. Østergaard said | May 10th 2017 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

        Absolutely. Cowboys will want to show they can win, and have a big boost with Coote and hopefully Granville back. Morgan should get a tonne of confidence back from those 2 being there and with his decent enough showing in the Test. Dogs on the other hand will want to keep their spot in the 8, and Frawley gets another starting chance with Jeynolds out so he has a point to prove as well.

    • May 10th 2017 @ 7:43am
      Oingo Boingo said | May 10th 2017 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      Damn good round of footy coming up this weekend… the sooner this is no longer a headline the better .

    • May 10th 2017 @ 8:45am
      Gavin R said | May 10th 2017 @ 8:45am | ! Report

      My biggest problem with this whole thing was Melbourne and Titans coming out and suggesting there wasn’t enough supervision. What an absolute cop out and rubbish response.

      Yes, society has a drug problem as things legally stand, and so if course that will spill over into every single occupation; doesnt mean we cant work towards eradicating or minimising the occurrence.

      • May 10th 2017 @ 10:09am
        Stu said | May 10th 2017 @ 10:09am | ! Report

        There were no complaints from the clubs when the Kangaroos went on a 3 day bender in Barcelona during the 4 nations. Only difference between Bromwich and Proctor and a number of other players is they got caught.

    • May 10th 2017 @ 10:06am
      thomas c said | May 10th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      You wonder if it’s just part of a partying culture or whether league contributes. It’s not that players hand in emotionally detached performances, but spend days with a group of their peers training together and playing off each other’s emotion to build to a game. Winning presumably results in euphoria and adulation, and abject defeat… well… A loss and then a massive protracted alcohol binge ending in purchasing cocaine are probably related.

    • May 10th 2017 @ 11:06am
      Jacko said | May 10th 2017 @ 11:06am | ! Report

      I fail to see how any player has bought the game into disrepute. The NRL thrives on this publicity and always has. As they say…Any publicity is good publicity.

      • May 10th 2017 @ 1:56pm
        spruce moose said | May 10th 2017 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

        Maybe you should share your kindergarten views Infinity Group, who have just pulled their sponsorship of the Chooks and Sharks.

        • May 11th 2017 @ 7:37am
          Justin Kearney said | May 11th 2017 @ 7:37am | ! Report

          Well said Moose

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