Many years ago, a train broke down on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and there were calls for the premier’s head.
My initial thought was that it was a ridiculous overreaction – how the hell is it the fault of the guy who runs the entire state if one train didn’t work?
But then I started to think about the chain of command.
Why did the engineer bugger up? Were they negligent or, perhaps, was it that they were working within antiquated and illogical systems?
And if it was the latter – and this is the Morris Iemma government we’re talking about – then maybe we don’t call out the person unfortunate enough to be on the tools when the system inevitably broke down.
Maybe it’s the fault of the person who allowed this system to continue as if it wasn’t a problem, right up until it was.
There’s a chain of command that shows how this broken-down locomotive was in fact the fault of the state premier. Not necessarily because he implemented a bad plan, but because the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.
Which brings me to 2020, and as part of their preparations for the World Club Challenge, the Sydney Roosters plan to have an opposed session with the club where Trent Robinson cut his teeth, Catalans Dragons.
Yeah, the club that just signed Israel Folau.
Naturally, Robinson tried to blow off the fact a club that counts Oxford Street as part of its catchment area are going to have a hit-out against a bloke who has some wildly outdated opinions about homosexuality.
“An opposed session for two hours does not mean we are validating his views,” Robinson was quoted as saying in the Sydney Morning Herald.
“It was organised last December, before we knew that Izzy had signed with Catalans. In the end, let’s train.”
Which, yeah, it’s not an unfair assessment – there are a whole lot more players than just Folau at the session who will be testing the reigning NRL premiers out.
But if the standard you walk past is the one you accept, then what does it mean that the Chooks are pressing ahead with a session against the Dragons after the French club decided they’re cool with Folau’s unrepentant homophobia?
It’s the transfer of property – if the Roosters are cool with Catalans, and Catalans are cool with Folau, then the Roosters are cool with Folau.
I know some people will say that’s a stretch, but it’s really not that far – it’s literally one step removed.
Catalans have a history of not really giving a toss what anyone else thinks – they’re a French club in an English comp and while the Hundred Years’ War may be long over, the animosity between the two nations will never truly extinguish.
Plus Folau is still awesome at footy, so I kinda see where the frogs are coming from signing him.
But while they’ve pretended they can divorce Folau the footy player from Folau the bible thumper, well, they can’t.
He’s been completely unrepentant regarding his homophobic views, which is what separates him from just about every other misbehaving footy player in history.
Israel is not sorry for what he’s done.
In an attempt to cover for this, Dragons chairman Bernard Guasch said it was cool, because Folau would keep his opinions to himself this time around.
“We do not believe that those views should be publicly expressed, especially by a high-profile sports person,” Guasch said announcing the ex-Wallaby’s signing.
“We have a signed agreement with the RFL. Any transgression will trigger an immediate termination of Israel’s contract and a substantial fine for the club.”
So your guarantee that Folau won’t say anything homophobic is that he’ll get sacked and your organisation will lose money? Yeah, maybe you should have a chat with Rugby Australia about how that tends to work out.
Ultimately, Folau’s views don’t preclude him from playing footy again, it was simply a case of finding an employer that would accept him.
Catalans were only too happy to accommodate him. And they can say they don’t agree with Folau’s views, but when in the same breath they explain that said views “are based upon his sincerely held religious belief” they give him a pretty substantial out.
Because who gives a shit why he’s homophobic?
Bringing the train back to the station though, this was a chance for the Roosters to take a stand.
Sure, Folau isn’t the whole of the Catalans organisation, but by employing him, the Dragons have shown what they stand for. And by having an opposed session against Catalans – and, in all likelihood, Folau himself – the Roosters give this position legitimacy.
The Chooks can say it’s just an opposed session, it’s only for a couple of hours and it was all organised before Folau was part of the deal, but that’s three excuses fresh from the book of Copping Out.
When you see something wrong and have the power to fix it – and let’s not kid around, the back-to-back NRL premiers can totally call off a two-hour opposed session against the Frenchies – it’s incumbent upon you to do so.
Trent Robinson may say it’s just training, but then Morris Iemma said it was just a train.
A speeding locomotive known as Israel Folau is set to hijack Australian rugby league’s cameras and opinions this week. And it’s the Roosters’ fault for letting it happen.