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Mark Coyne is a great bloke, but the ARL Commission must walk its talk

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Expert
18th July, 2019
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Mark Coyne? What do you reckon? Scold him? Sack him? Unleash upon him the ridicule and rough mob justice of the Twittersphere?

All of the above? None of it?

Whatever way you’re swingin, the great ‘Mark Coyne yells swear words at Singapore cab driver then argues with police’ incident is one for the suits of the Australian Rugby League Commission.

And it’ll be interesting how they judge one of their own. Because everyone be watching – the players most of all.

You’d suggest that in a game in which players are judged so harshly for being dickheads on the drink, when one of the suits plays up they must cop it as harshly – for morale as much as anything.

Some years ago, the head of an expeditionary team under the command of a Captain James Cook caused ructions among the ruling class when he served his officers the same broth of ‘cabbage surprise’ they were feeding the common seamen.

The soup kept scurvy away and the jolly Jack Tars hooked in, revelling in thought of their ‘betters’ digging into such non-posh-nosh. Win-win for Cap’n Cookie.

And thus you’d suggest it behoves Peter Beattie and whomever else sits in judgement of Sub-Lieutenant Coyne to take this into account.

ARL Commission Chairman Peter Beattie speaks to the media

Photo by Matt King/Getty Images

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Too soft and it’s hypocrisy. Too harsh and they could lose a very good man.

Good man? Talk to anyone and M Coyne is not just a good bloke, he’s a great bloke. And not just a great bloke, he’s a top bloke.

Top human. Quality human.

“He’s a top-quality bloke,” says a NSW cop and mutual mate of mine and Coyne’s.

“Cannot speak highly enough of him. Generous, personable, intelligent. He didn’t get where he was for being a mug. He’s just a cracking bloke.

“This stuff that’s been in the papers – and I know you can’t believe everything you read, of course – but it’s totally out of character. I’ve never known him like that. I’ve never even heard him say ‘shit’.”

And thus our Pete Beattie and his fellow suits will be nutting it out now, testing the waters and ringing around the claque of journos whom our Pete’s got on speed dial to gauge what these influencers think and thus how the story will play out in the grown-up broadsheets.

And it’s all a bit of a Thing.

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Should it be?

Of course it should be.

That a man has a drink and argues with a cabbie in Singapore wouldn’t be a Thing if the man was not a Commissioner upon a board charged with running rugby league.

But he is, so it is.

Anyway, there he was, our Coyney, playing the part of the ‘ugly Australian’ on tour. Rich, righteous, privileged. Bellicose. White.

Cops and cabbie might’ve let it go without the indignation. Bit of humility. Yet off he went, our Coyney, in their country, getting all lippy, telling them what’s what, calling them rude words.

Wouldn’t go over well whatever country you’re in.

How would a Brisbane cabbie go with a high-falutin’ rich Yank or Pommy lord or Arab sheik or something barking at them like serfs?

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Not very well, is that how they’d go. And the Brissie boys in blue might enjoy putting Sir Archibald Nincompoop into the watch house for an evening to ponder the error of his ways. It’s human. Germans would have a word for it like schadenfreude.

And as Vincent Vega (John Travolta) said to Jules Winfield (Samuel L Jackson) in Pulp Fiction, Mark Coyne shoulda better known better.

Singapore can lull you. It’s safe and clean and nice. And boring. And soulless. And a few other things. And you can feel like you’re in The Truman Show with really hot food and Irish pubs and monkeys.

Cool joint for a holiday. Take the kids.

Yet wasn’t long ago they were whacking kids with great long bits of bamboo if they spit out their gum. They don’t cop any shit in Singapore. They do it their way. They’re still executing drug addicts, mules, those poor dumb bastards.

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Singapore is run by a benevolent dictatorship with no true political ‘opposition’. The local paper, The Straits Times, toes the one-party line, which is, effectively, be good, do your best, don’t get too lippy and everyone will get paid.

Coyne got a bit lippy, it appears, with a taxi man. Which was unlucky for Coyne because, in my experience, Singapore’s cabbies are excellent.

Went on a golf tour last year, we got a cab back from Sentosa on day one, the driver stayed with us for a week. Every day he’d ferry us to golf, to the races, to wherever. He brought beer and smiled like a dead ringer for chubby Thai golfer Kiradech Aphibarnrat. We tipped him like the Sultan of Brunei.

And if you’ve been to Singapore you’ll know that the cabbies are good. It’s cheap and they know where they’re going. And Coyne’s been unlucky to cop a bad one.

So! What will he cop from his fellow booted suits?

Coyne, being a Commissioner and important person, had a requirement to report. An obligation. You can’t hide that stuff. You can’t spend six weeks in Singapore without anyone noticing. He missed all three State of Origins. Twenty-five years since he scored that try.

And someone blabbed. And Coyney found out: the cover-up is worse than the crime.

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In his defence, Coyne told the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday: “My biggest risk around self-reporting was there could have been a heap of media turn up in Singapore to get involved and that could have resulted in me being incarcerated.

“I recognised from an NRL point of view it wasn’t the right thing but from a Mark Coyne point of view that was the right thing for me to do to protect myself.

“That’s why I wanted to make that decision.”

Walk in another man’s shoes until you pass judgement, they say. But he still should’ve told someone.

“I should’ve made a public statement earlier,” Coyne told The Daily Telegraph.

“It was a very embarrassing situation for me and my family. I was in a bit of shock. I’ve never been in trouble before.

“I’m very embarrassed. It’s been a very humbling experience. I have a strong respect for the Singaporean police and the integrity they are held in. I’ve learnt a valuable lesson.”

It’s clear he means it. Had he been in trouble before he’d have known – better to get out ahead of it. Lance the boil. Excise… the… mucky goop.

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Set it free.

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Perhaps he believed he could save everyone – admittedly including himself – a headache by not telling anyone that an Australian Rugby League Commissioner had been shouty on the ink.

Now, there are those for whom the story registers fairly low on the rugby league outrage-o-meter.

I am among them. Being a dick because you think a cab driver’s ripping you off is a rite of passage for the Great Aussie Drunk.

But the Australian Rugby League Commission is an august body charged with ruling upon the digressions of 20-something footballers.

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They must walk their own talk.