Manly NRL player Joel Thompson is in a stable condition in hospital after smashing his head into rocks in an alcohol-fuelled incident during the long weekend.
Righto, Sammy. Let’s go with it. Let’s make penalties for misdemeanours on the field relative to the weight of a man’s name and profile in the game, and the importance of upcoming fixtures.
Let’s make it that if you’re a big name ahead of a big game, that whatever went on that warranted involvement by the Match Review Panel and judiciary, if it’s on the low end of the naughty scale, you only get fined.
It would mean Jared Waerea-Hargreaves would not miss the Roosters’ preliminary final for his trip, and you would not have missed Souths’ match against those Chooks after pulling old mate’s hair.
Let’s go with that. Let’s make the size of a player’s profile and the weight of the game they might miss how we adjudge the severity of penalties in rugby league.
Righto! Go to it! Tonight at ANZ, pull every Manly bastard’s hair. Trip them. Rip off all that relatively minor stuff, confident in the knowledge that you’ll only be fined. Because, Sammy, you are you. And a preliminary final against the Raiders in Canberra for a place in the grand final is a Big Game.
And you won’t miss it. Because you are you. And that’s a Big Game.
Run riot, champion.
For consistency’s sake, of course, Manly’s Big Names – let’s say Martin Taupau and Jake Trbojevic – will be open slather too, of course, to trip and grab and lightly tweak your nostrils, all game.
A little eye massage there, a little ear pull there. All that stuff – what’s it matter? A player shouldn’t be rubbed out for that, Sammy, should they?
No – blokes like yourself and JWH and big Marty, ‘tough guys’ and ‘enforcers’ who the fans love, and hate, and love-hate, the big units who skate close to the line, the nature of your footy means you’re going to be up in front of panels and judiciaries, and all that.
That’s footy, right?
So tonight against Manly – open slather, baby. You’re a big name, next week’s a big game, go for your life.
And then week after that, should you beat the Sea Eagles and make it through to the preliminary against Canberra, it’s open slater then, too. Grab ‘em where it hurts! Tweak and poke, and trip and whack. All that tough stuff. Let ‘em know you’re there.
Because of course, being a big name in a game before the biggest game, a grand final, you should not, of course, be rubbed out.
Fined? Of course. Players, as you said, will pay whatever. Or their clubs will. Or rich benefactors will as horse owners sling a bonus to a jockey.
Does that go on? Would it come under the salary cap?
Don’t answer that.
Regardless, no way known should a Big Name be rubbed out before a grand final for finger bends or nostril stuffs, or anything outside a head-high shot that concusses their best player and rubs him out of the game.
And even then? If you didn’t mean it. I mean, it’s a grand final next week. And you’re a big name. And big names sell the game, as you said.
Look at Billy Slater last year. Preliminary final, took out a winger by screaming across in cover and bracing his shoulder and obliterating old mate into touch.
Saved a try.
Match review panel declared: shoulder charge.
But then, through a legal defence that included wearing a suit, releasing photos of himself on a private jet poring over documents like a crack paralegal – and the kicker, being future Immortal Billy Slater prior to his last ever game, and that game being a blinking grand final – Billy convinced relevant old boys that it wasn’t a shoulder charge and played in said grand final.
And why all fullbacks aren’t now screaming across in cover to take out wingers with shoulders bunched for contact in shoulder-charge fashion I don’t know.
Actually no, I do. It’s because it’s against the rules. And they are not Billy Slater before his last ever game a grand final.
And they know it.
And you know it, too.
But! You are Sam Burgess, and that has to count for something, right? You’re a high-profile and fabulous footy player, and clearly the rules for suspensions, as they stand, should not count, because you sell the game, and all that little stuff, what’s it matter?
So mate – get into it! Let loose. Shoulder charges. Headlocks, hair pulls. Only be a fine. Big fine, maybe, for you have the form of Phar Lap.
But just a fine.
And it’ll be the same for Marty and Jake and even spunky little Daly Cherry-Evans, and all the game’s Big Names can bop about ANZ Stadium and rip off all manner of grubby junk, and be sure that come the preliminary final, they’ll be sweet.
And the game will look equal parts like a dockyard brawl and the 1980 grand final in which barely a tackle was made in which forearms didn’t connect flush with cheekbones, and if a man fronted the judiciary with the bloke whose ear he’d bitten, neither could remember what happened.
No suspensions then. And next week, be it Round 4 against Newtown or grand final against Saints, the man was free to play.
As a man should be today.
Unless he’s Hudson Young.