A lot of people are railing against the punishments that were imposed on Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr and Nathan Cleary, arguing that they are unfair and out of step with what people in the mainstream get.
Let me explain to you why those punishments are not only appropriate, they are necessary.
It has been over a month since a game of rugby league has been played. The club staff are all laid off or stood down. The leagues clubs are empty. The players have had to wear massive pay cuts.
We need footy back.
Our new commander-in-chief, Mr Rugba Leeg, Peter V’landys is trying to work a miracle to get the footy back up and running by May 28. Right now what we all need to do is get right in behind him as a united force to make sure it happens.
To achieve this ambitious aim will require military precision and discipline. There is no room for insubordination or stuffing around with the rules here.
If just one freaking player or official gets COVID-19 the whole thing is blown.
Flushed down the toilet.
You can go on all you like about civil liberties and equity all you want (Lord knows I have in the past!), but this is an emergency situation and it requires the sporting equivalent of martial law to pull it off.
The players must absolutely adhere to the social distancing requirements. They must stay healthy. They can’t take risks like Cleary, Mitchell and Addo-Carr did. It isn’t just their pay they are risking when they break the rules, it is the pay of the players and officials of all 16 teams.
I love all three of these players but going camping or partying risks the whole thing. It was incredibly stupid and selfish. The severe punishments acting NRL CEO Andrew Abdo put in place were absolutely necessary to make sure every single player gets the message and stays socially distanced with a maniacal zeal.
Even without players taking such stupid risks, V’landys will have to pull off a coordination effort that will require incredible skill and massive doses of luck. Hannibal crossing the Alps will pale in comparison.
V’landys needs to get all 16 teams, the officials, training staff and all the broadcast staff and their equipment – virus free – into the Sydney Olympic precinct.
They need to scrub the place clean and evict all those who aren’t involved in the effort.
They need to commandeer a number of the hotels to house everyone. They need to segregate the teams and make rules over movement and interaction – and they must have a force in place to strictly enforce those rules.
They need to get three playing surfaces prepared for games and set up for broadcast.
They need to organise catering, laundry, healthcare and whatever else as well.
They need to have awesome security and testing in place that ensures the place is a protected biosphere.
And they need no one to get sick.
So, sure, if Latrell and Josh and Nathan were just normal members of the public, maybe the punishments would be too harsh. But they aren’t and these aren’t normal times.
The message has now firmly gone out to all those involved: get with the program or risk the footy never restarting in 2020.
Risk big fines and suspensions.
And if you do blow it for all of us, don’t expect us to laugh it off or forgive you in a hurry. I, like most of you, miss the footy so much it hurts.
We all need to get behind Peter V’landys right now. He might talk funny but he’s the best chance we’ve got.