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The 'white powder' dilemma: Why the NRL has no business sticking its nose in

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29th September, 2021
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Like everyone else, I was of course furious when the story broke that Melbourne Storm players had been caught on video with “white powder” – a term that’s up there with “helping police with their enquiries” when it comes to saying what you mean without saying what you mean.

I was incandescent with anger. I was red-faced, ranting, exploding with rage at this utterly unacceptable behaviour.

Then I paused in my anger for just a moment and asked myself, “Why am I angry?” And you know, I couldn’t think of an answer.

Why on earth was I angry at the revelation that two wealthy twenty-something men at a loose end had indulged in a spot of recreational drug-taking? It was a puzzler.

Was I angry because they were out partying when they should have been preparing for a big game? No, that can’t be it: the season was over for the Storm, it was the designated period for partying. There was no big game ahead.

Even if there had been, one could pretty much applaud their decision to go with “white powder” rather than beer – it’s the fitness-conscious choice. But there was no game, the players were relaxing with friends during a very well-earned off-season.

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Well, then, was I angry because they broke the law? Not particularly. Law-breaking is, in most cases, inadvisable, and in this case could be seen as outright idiotic. Certainly Reece Walsh has cause to reflect on his stupidity this week, and perhaps Cam Munster and Brandon Smith will be doing the same. But as it happens, the prohibition against drug-taking is not even a law I think should exist, let alone one the violation of which I believe represents a grave moral failing.

I understand the police have to care whether people take “white powder” or not, but I have no such professional responsibility. People break all sorts of laws every day without it bothering me in the slightest.

But perhaps it’s that stupidity I mentioned that made me angry? Well, certainly, I would prefer it if rugby league players were not monumentally stupid. It gives me no pleasure when they are. But did I ever really believe Munster or Smith were budding PhD candidates? It’s a little disappointing, but I’m not going to fly into a frenzy over footballers being dumb. I’ll just shake my head and roll my eyes.

Maybe I’m just angry because I hate drugs. I do. I loathe them. People on drugs are boring and obnoxious. People talking about drugs, even more so. If I had been in that room when the “white powder” came out, I would’ve groaned inwardly and known I was in for a genuinely dreadful evening.

Cam Munster

Cam Munster showed off his dance moves in the widely circulated video (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

I’d have made my excuses as quickly as possible, because I would’ve known good company would not be found there. I wish fervently that nobody ever took drugs. But they do.

Hardly anyone I know has never taken drugs. And frankly, I don’t much care. Like I said, I don’t want to be around them while they’re taking them, but the fact they take them is no skin off my nose. Drugs don’t make someone a bad person, and – as much as it pains me to admit it – eschewing drugs doesn’t make someone a good one.

But more than anything, it’s really just none of my business. I don’t think I’ve any right to tell anyone how to live their life unless they are hurting someone else. And sitting down to partake in a spot of “white powder”, as far as I can see, hurts nobody.

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So, it seems like the only reason I have to be angry is the old reliable one: “bringing the game into disrepute”. Also known as “setting a bad example for the kiddies”. That could, indeed, make me angry. Except, hang on, it’s not Cameron Munster and Brandon Smith who actually did that, is it?

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It’s the douchebag who filmed them and then made the video public.

Had that person not done that, the “white powder” would’ve been consumed quietly and privately and nobody would ever have known about it. You can’t set a bad example for the kiddies if the kiddies never know what you did, and it’s not Smith and Munster’s fault that the kiddies know what they did: it’s the insufferable arsehole who got invited to a private party and then screwed over their friends with what we used to term “a dog act”.

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So, yeah, I am angry at that utter tool, that nasty little dobber. I think they’re a right dickhead. Of course, the players who let it happen are right dickheads too, but there are dickheads and there are dickheads, aren’t there? You know what I mean.

And maybe I’m a little bit angry at the NRL, and the other sporting bodies who have taken the fainting-couch approach to the issue of drugs in our society, and decided that what players do in their spare time is any of our business.

Because if the NRL just said, ‘This is nothing to do with football, the police can take action if they want to but this is utterly outside our remit’, frankly, the world would be a calmer and less hysterical place.

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