Culture comes in many forms, and it can be either a poison or the elixir of life.
In sporting terms, how does management create a positive culture that entices a bunch of young, strong men from all walks of life to follow a pathway to success? Is it strong leadership? History? Pride in team colours?
Every generation has vastly different outlook to the last and neither can truly understand each other because of their respective life experiences.
But what accounts for a positive culture? Let’s look at three generations to compare: the boomers of the 1960s and 70s, generation X of the 1980s and 90s, and generation Y of the 2000s to now.
No one can say one generation had a better culture than any other, because each has had their vices as well as their virtues. The boomers are lauded for toughness and quick wits to penetrate a defensive line only five metres away when a pie and Coke was the warm-up and a beer was the consolation for your concussion.
Young upstarts quickly fell in line with the older blokes and wingers knew their place. Thousands of fans swung from the rafters to unashamedly advise the refs and opposing players how their sexuality, ethnicity or skin colour affected their gam – not that anyone would complain today, because that’s just ‘how things were’.
Did they play up off the field? Of course – but we all had to go to work on Monday and the pub shut at 7pm on Sunday.
The years of generation X introduced a level of professionalism because playing rugby league became a full-time job. Money, TV and personal endorsements turned a footy player into a pseudo celebrity. They now train full-time and they’re getting bigger and stronger, but they are still 20-somethings with cash to burn and free time.
Sure, the old heads still pulled them into line as required, but Kings Cross and Fortitude Valley still hold many secrets of which the general public remains unaware and the Daily Telegraph or Courier Mail didn’t publish.
We loved our stars for what they did on the field and had a passing ‘boys will be boys’ interest in what happened off the field.
Now we wonder about the skill of generation Y – Sonny Bill Williams-like machines who hit like wrecking balls and run like cheetahs. In most cases, these boys have lived and breathed rugby league since being contracted to a sports-focused high school. They are superb athletes with haircuts to match.
Who pulls these blokes into line? Who in Newcastle next year tells Kalyn Ponga – worth more than half the current team at just 19 years old – to pull his head in?
Answer: we do, and they contribute willingly. They still have the same desire to play up as all previous generations, but everyone carries mobile phones and must tweet all we see.
Jarryd Hayne goes to a house party and some bikie tweets a fistful of cash and next thing he is in front of an integrity commission. Yes, the NRL has an integrity commission because these fellas care little for all the advice and coaching of club staffers.
From Blake Ferguson, Todd Carney, Josh Dugan, Ben Barba and Tim Simona right up to Jesse Bromwich, Kevin Proctor and Sharks CEO Damian Keogh. Plus the whole ASADA thing – $20,000 for blurry video of some player acting stupid – why not?
No club is excluded, and why should they be? They buy the best players they can afford and shuffle off those who are not up to scratch. These boys are great footballers with all the smarts and loyalty of politicians.
Wayne Bennett proclaimed many years ago not to look up to players as role models because they are not; they are footballers, and like the rest of us, experience comes from mistakes.
We are now in a time where a clip under the ear from an elder has made way for online outrage and public persecution for this is now our culture.