There is genuine concern about the mental well-being of the players involved and that does need to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind when dealing with this issue. Life is much more important than a game of football.
My job as a rugby league commentator is to observe all aspects of the football club and the way it is played and give an opinion on how successful or unsuccessful it is. I don’t have to be on the receiving end of that thankfully and my family doesn’t have to deal with the public criticism. I can only guess what it must be like for those players at the moment, what their families are going through and the impact this will have on their lives.
I’m certainly not advocating letting these guys get away with what they have done but it is important to ensure that they are well supported through what will clearly be a tough time, which is just as vital as coming up with an appropriate punishment. This is not the crime of the century. They have not done anything that should see their lives completely torn apart as a result.
They deserve to be criticised for their actions – we all do when we make mistakes – but they also need to be given the chance to make good on what has happened in due course. Maybe there needs to be some time out of the game first, maybe they need further punishment but I trust that the Warriors will make the right call on that. The club have all the information in front of them. We in the media don’t.
It is easy to criticise the Warriors for their performances on the field but they have a long track record of getting things right off the park. I can speak from personal experience about how highly they place importance on people’s lives away from football. This club is not just about playing footy on the weekend – there is far more to it and in most cases they have been market-leaders in the way they run the shop.
I have criticised the players in question over the years for mistakes they’ve made while playing the game. I have praised them when they’ve played well too. There is nothing personal in that. These guys are just footy players to me and the way they play the game is how we describe and view them. In reality they are people though – fathers, brothers, husbands, sons – and there is a human element to this. I wouldn’t say I know any of these players on a personal level – I’ve conducted the odd interview with them over the years and have always found them to be polite, modest and good people. I have criticised them today for their behaviour last week but nothing I have read today has changed my opinions about them as people.
I hope the message they are getting from the club and from loved ones is that while they have messed up – they are still loved and will be forgiven.
It is important that the club takes a hard stance on this behaviour for two reasons. It is important to protect the image of the club but it is also important to protect these players and future players from making a mistake that cannot be fixed.
If by any small chance any of the six players involved happen to read this I would tell you the following for what it’s worth. You messed up – who hasn’t? Cop it on the chin and get on with your lives. You will be judged primarily by how you respond to this.