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Enough is enough: Time to ban NRL off-season

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Expert
14th October, 2019
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2424 Reads

With a minuscule percentage of footballers in hot water on vacay again, Todd Greenberg is left with no choice but to ban the end of the rugby league season.

If he is serious about the hearts and minds of the game’s most valuable sector – the papers – he must flex his administrative muscle and outlaw the off-season immediately, and along with it, any form of recreation, relaxation, and/or return flight to South East Asia unless canvassing a relocation post for Cronulla.

After the string of ugly incidents last summer and a regrettable launch to this recreation period, holiday misdeeds have grown synonymous with the game. Apparently The Veronicas were disruptive on a flight last month, now the tabloids have linked them with the Knights.

This is why the time has come for the game to stand up. It has a reputation to uphold, and the only way to arrest this is with irrational, poorly-advised corrective action, and/or the Coach Whisperer.

Overlooking the botched presentations, wrongly adjudged medalists and Darren Lockyer’s memory, the NRL demands excellence and professionalism – and this can be ensured by running the competition all year round to counter cheap flights to Bali.

Such action is necessary for this reason: while the majority of footballers can be trusted to do the right thing, unfortunately the sport’s culture dictates the only time these fine men are celebrated is if one smashes someone on ESPN.

This leaves the spotlight to an incurable minority that is devoid of decorum unless they are embedded in the week-in week-out grind of weekly matches, or off-contract.

Nelson Asota-Solomona Melbourne Storm NRL Rugby League 2017

Nelson Asota-Solomona of the Storm in happier times. (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

By banning the off-season and forcing footballers to play rugby league 365 days per year, it will quash any chance of extra-curricular transgression and restrict the game’s ugly incidents to eye gouging and confused refereeing.

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This idea has strengthened in the last 48 hours following the incident allegedly involving Nelson Asofa-Solomona, with the pictures from Seminyak causing such distress it saw political protestors in Jakarta pleading for peace.

While no charges have yet been laid, the Melbourne man-mountain is already protesting his innocence, with onlookers claiming he was simply reacting to revellers’ requests for an impersonation of Craig Bellamy after a forward pass.

Investigations remaining ongoing, however the Storm are privately hoping the accused is mistaken for Brodie Croft, thus facilitating a move to Brisbane where he could be adequately punished for violent acts by being offered the captaincy.

Whatever the outcome, the events of Sunday continue rugby league’s torrid relationship with Bali and surrounding areas, a destination that has long proven irresistible for footballers not only for its geographical proximity, but also because its favourable exchange rate means lower fines.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg speaks to the media after leaving the NSW Federal Court in Sydney, Monday, April 15, 2019. Jack de Belin is challenging the NRL’s no-fault stand down policy after he was charged with sexual assault in December. (AAP Image/Peter Rae)

The incident couldn’t come at a worse time for the NRL, with the silly season off to a concerning start after Brisbane’s James Segeyaro was hauled before the authorities after allegedly ingesting an illicit substance, believed to be XXXX Gold.

This follows from a disastrous post-2018, with historians claiming it to be the first pre-season in history with trial games available strictly through closed circuit footage and/or a video link from remand.

Of greater shame, the NRL enjoyed a year of impeccable off-field behaviour during the 2019 season proper, with an incomprehensible campaign of squeaky clean behaviour forcing media in to the unprecedented move of reporting on matches.

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Nevertheless, the fact remains this; the NRL off-season is a time to regroup, plan for next year’s campaign and recruit and rejuvenate rosters, and that’s just that Integrity Unit.

This is why an all year round season is required. Sure, it will be tremendously negative for players health, but the upside for the NRL is at least it will kill the international game.