Dear Api, after your recent time in the spotlight, I felt compelled to write you a letter.
First, a bit about me. I am a huge NRL fan. Watch every game. Watch and listen to as many footy shows as possible. Read as many articles as I can. Fortunate enough to write some too. I wear my Blues jersey with pride in a house full of maroon.
I am currently in lockdown. Again.
There are so many people doing it tough right now. Jobs lost, hours decreased, working from home while trying to remember maths to help their kids with schoolwork.
Missing loved ones. Trying to pay bills. Struggling to keep it all under control.
One of the shining lights for many is watching the footy. Not only as escapism, but because they love it and it’s their passion.
The NRL and the government have gone above and beyond to allow the competition to continue. It is an absolute privilege to have the footy still on every weekend, with many working day and night behind the scenes to keep players like yourself on the field. And getting paid.
While many are battling to put food on the table, you still get to play the game you love and earn a wage from it.
In order to keep playing, the teams have been placed in the NRL bubble. There have been many warnings throughout the season from officials that if the bubble is broken, the competition may be stopped.
Key to the bubble is if you are in the bubble, stay in it. If you are not in the bubble, stay out of it. Pretty simple instructions, like what children get from their parents: “Do the wrong thing and you don’t get to play.”
We assumed adults wouldn’t have any problem with this. How wrong we were.
The Dragons had their BBQ fiasco. The ‘COVID-13’, thought they could get away with having a gathering, despite knowing the restrictions and being told by their coach not to. Many believe that while idiotic, and that they should have told the truth from the start, at least they were among teammates and not out of the bubble.
They received fines and suspensions. Paul Vaughan copped the most with a $50,000 fine, an eight-week suspension from the NRL, and having his contract torn up by the Dragons.
Then, Jai Arrow decided to sneak in a ‘private dancer’ for some obviously urgent dance lessons during the State of Origin 3 camp, not only breaking the NRL bubble, but the Origin bubble.
He lost his spot in the Queensland side, received a two-match ban and a $35,000 fine.
Surely that was it. There is no way we would hear about another player knowingly putting the entire competition in jeopardy.
That’s when you said, “Hold my beer.”
Last week, it came out that you too, had snuck a lady into your hotel room during Origin camp. But that’s where the similarity to Arrow’s situation ends.
Not only did you meet up with her twice during Origin 2 camp, but were all set to meet up with her again during Origin 3 camp, only calling off the rendezvous after news broke of Arrow getting kicked out of camp.
And while Arrow came forward and got reprimanded, you hid in the shadows. You knew that you had done the same thing, but you said nothing.
I’d like to think that while the Queensland camp were in crisis mode, someone in the Blues camp asked everyone: “Okay boys, tell us now. Has anyone broken the bubble?” I’m guessing if that question was asked, you would have said, “Nope.”
And that was that. You went on to play Origin, got your photo with the trophy, claimed your match fee, and laughed in the faces of everyone that has worked their butts off to keep the game going.
Your indiscretions eventually came to light. Not from personal admission though. The lady that you snuck into your hotel room had been trying to contact you and you had been ignoring her. So, she contacted the next best person. Your wife.
You were busted.
Your marriage is your business. You could have snuck a mate in to play PlayStation and we would still be having the same conversation. The fact that you cheated just goes to show the kind of person you are.
What I’m angry about is that you broke the rules, could have derailed the rest of the NRL season and lied about it. You did it despite knowing everything that was at stake and believed you were so above anyone else to care.
You could have potentially spread COVID throughout both origin teams. Twice.
You almost ruined the chance for anyone else involved with the NRL to earn a wage.
You nearly took away the shining light from all of us stuck at home.
I’m glad that you got caught.
I’m not happy with your punishment though: a two-game suspension and a $35,000 fine. The same as Jai Arrow’s – except that you still got to play Origin and get paid for the privilege.
I expected you to miss the rest of the season. I still can’t understand how you got less than Vaughan.
Reports suggest that you have ruined any chance of future Origin selection. I don’t think I could have cheered for you representing my state anyway.
You have come out with the standard apology statement. You’re not sorry for what you did, you’re sorry you got caught.
As a wife, I hope your wife is okay. I hope the pain and embarrassment you have caused her eases as time goes on.
As a mum, I hope your girls are okay. I hope that they don’t get their moral compasses from you.
As an NRL fan, I hope this follows you around for the rest of your career. To be remembered as the snake in the grass who thought he could have his bit on the side and not give two hoots about potentially ending the 2021 NRL competition.
Rugby league is a team sport. Working together and having trust. Being able to rely on your teammates and have them being able to rely on you.
Maybe you should have a look at an individual sport.