Professional rugby league is a young man’s game. And I speak from personal experience when I say that there is no one quite as stupid as a young man.
Give a young man lots of money, adulation and free time and you can create a particularly stupid young man.
Regardless of the plentiful examples of the stupid young men before them who’ve stuffed up by getting caught committing some abhorrent act, cashed up rugby league players just keep making the same mistakes.
Like lemmings going over the edge of cliffs, NRL players regularly go drink driving, get in fights, cheat on their partners, hang out with criminals, sexually assault women and carry out all manner of activities in public toilets.
Just like the hot dog vendor following Homer Simpson around to put his kids through college, scandals involving rugby league players occur so frequently that they almost single handedly sustain the tabloid press in Australia.
Rugby league players get castigated for engaging in coitus in the public toilet when other people do it all the time as well and no one seems to care. Joe Blow’s only punishment is to get booted out by the bouncers while getting cheered by his mates. He doesn’t have to make a tearful apology at a press conference.
Lots of young men engage in fisticuffs after having one too many rum and cokes and they mostly don’t end up on the front page of the paper. We’ve all known that bloke who it seems like every second month goes out on a bender and either ends up smacking someone in the head or getting arrested for being paralytic in a public place, and nothing much ever seems to happen to him.
People are getting busted for drink driving all of the time and most of them don’t end up on the telly, stood down from their jobs and have their pay docked by their employer – along with having their licence suspended and paying a huge fine.
However, while it may not seem fair to them, rugby league players committing the same acts will get these harsher penalties.
And let’s face it, it probably isn’t fair. But it is the reality.
If you are a young man who plays first grade NRL you are far more likely to suffer harsher and sustained negative public attention in regard to your disgraces than Jeff the sparky from the Western Suburbs who got busted doing exactly the same thing.
The truth of it is that there is a double standard.
One of the first lessons they teach you in journalism school is that “man bites dog” is a big story that “dog bites man” can never be.
First grade NRL players are relatively famous and they often are doing quite well financially. They are of interest. How they play, what they do for a hobby, who they go out with and especially their disgraces are all of great interest to the general public.
Every single club warns their players that they will be watched, recorded, baited and enticed far more than other people and that they must be far more careful than other people because people will cut down tall poppies with glee.
And when that happens it could well cost the young player all of that attention, adulation and money.
Every player is reminded that it is a privilege to get those opportunities and just how easily it can all disappear.
Yet, like the groups of smokers huddled together outside, so many still take the stupid risks and make bad choices, thinking that it won’t be them who gets in trouble.
Of course you can take it to the bank that if I was good enough at a sport to get paid $500,000 plus a season – hell even $200,000 plus a season – you can be damn sure I would not risk that income by taking foolish chances. I would keep my nose so clean and follow all of the rules to make sure I made the most of the opportunity to secure my future.
Or at least I like to think I would…
Surely I would find it easy to turn down that gorgeous woman at the bar.
And I’d have no problem in ignoring that total dickhead constantly stirring me all night. I’m sure it would be easy, right?
The cold reality is that football is a business and clubs will only tolerate bad behaviour from their players in direct ratio to how good a player they are.
If you are a very good player a club will go to great lengths to keep you when your disgraces go public.
If you are just an ordinary player the club is probably more likely to cut you loose.
In 2007, troubled but talented Raiders halfback Todd Carney drove club mate Steve Irwin’s ute while disqualified and once again fell foul of the law. While the Raiders kept Carney on, they sacked Irwin. The rationale was that Carney was a valuable commodity while Irwin was not.
Carney eventually was sacked by the Raiders after a seemingly unending string of incidents. A lesson learned the hard way by CEO Don Furner Jr.
When this week the Canberra Raiders’ board announced the termination of Curtis Scott’s contract with immediate effect, it is what pretty much everyone had been expecting since Scott’s most recent incident in Canberra on 30 May.
In what has been a season from hell for the team that represents the Canberra, Queanbeyan, Yass, Goulburn and Cooma region, some quarters have been only too happy to point to Scott’s fate as being endemic in what some have attempted to describe as a dysfunctional and toxic culture at the club.
“I opened up about extremely personal information regarding mental health and current struggles, I have just lost what feels like everything to me and I can’t understand why Canberra have continued to kick me while I’m down and now leak in-house information that was dealt with over a year ago regarding a former player. The club has nothing to gain out of this but hopes of reasoning for their lack of supporting.”
“In my opinion it’s a low act and they have shown and proved that they have no real care factor for players’ welfare. It’s not the first time this has happened to a player at the Raiders that has come out about mental health struggles.”
However, the reality is that Curtis Scott has no one to blame but himself.
When security camera footage from Canberra bar ‘Kokomos’ showed Scott punching another patron, there was barely a person at the Raiders club who wasn’t exasperated that he had stepped out of line again.
Before Scott had even played a game for the Raiders he was already in trouble. On January 26 2020 he was arrested in Moore Park, Sydney while allegedly heavily intoxicated. While the charges were subsequently dropped, there was no question that Scott had put himself in a position likely to draw negative attention for himself and the club.
As has recently been revealed, later that season he was involved in an altercation with a Raiders teammate that resulted in an injury that made him miss a number of games.
His most recent incident was his third in under 18 months. While the 23-year-old centre from the Shire certainly has good footballing credentials, it wasn’t enough to sway the Raiders board. His potential to cause the club continued negative coverage was clear.
That Scott has subsequently tried to paint the Raiders as a club that doesn’t care about the welfare of their players, shows a naivety about the realities of modern football, accompanied by a sense of entitlement.
It is a business. Players are hired to play football and through that assist the positive performance and image of the club. The players are well remunerated to do so. While players perform their duties in good faith and with good work ethic a club should absolutely support them emotionally too.
However, when a player frequently causes issues they shouldn’t be surprised when the club cuts them loose.