Share it

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Halftime Spray #14 (2014)

This weekend some bloke, for some odd reason, took a photo of Todd Carney self-watering himself at a urinal. Don't know why you'd want a photo of that, but that's for another discussion.
However, this image was then passed around on social media by some other bloke seemingly desperate for his 5 minutes of fame. Any publicity is good publicity it seems for this bloke.
All that aside, it has led to the Cronulla Sharks terminating Carney's lucrative contract. His initial contract with the Sharks in late 2011 reportedly contained strict disciplinary clauses. His contract was upgraded in 2013.
If those clauses remained after he re-signed, then Carney's lewd act could be argued to be a breach of contract, hence his sacking.
Was his act enough to deserve a sacking? Probably not. Is it a good look? Definitely not. Is it the sort of publicity the Sharks could have done without? Definitely.
As far as Carney's prior indiscretions are concerned, this is possibly the tamest. Essentially, since moving to Sydney, Carney has been better behaved, but it's hard not to have been considering the moronic antics he got up to at Canberra (and later in Atherton).
This isn't a story about Carney being sacked because of the recent image. This is about Carney's past catching up with him and Carney not being mature enough to simply behave himself and act professional at all times.
At the time, it's alleged that the Sharks CEO Steve Noyce had repeatedly tried to get in touch with Carney after the image surfaced, but Carney wouldn't return the calls. Carney later said he wanted "an opportunity to talk to the players firstly and (then) talk to the board and staff."
According to Carney, Noyce said he'd consider it, but then ten minutes later he learnt that he was going to be sacked. Carney said he "felt betrayed and lied to." He went on to state that if someone else was running the club other than Steve Noyce (who terminated Carney's contract when he was CEO at the Sydney Roosters) then he wouldn't have been sacked.
Regarding the image, Carney didn't know the photo had been taken nor did he expect it to turn up on social media. A remorseful Carney said "as much as it's hurt Cronulla and my career, it's hurt my pride and integrity as a person."
The problem for Carney is that he has failed to show a modicum of maturity in this whole saga. He hasn't admitted that he shouldn't have done what he did in the first place. He also hasn't apologised for it. To try and shift the blame for his sacking to some conspiracy to oust him by Steve Noyce is also very immature. Noyce didn't force Carney to do what he did at the urinal, or take the photo, or publish it online and thus bring more bad publicity to the club.
The Sharks board acted in a hastily yet disorganised manner. Carney wasn't offered an opportunity to explain himself directly to the board and players which I think is concerning. It makes the board appear as though they panicked.
For Carney, his past has caught up with him. His previous transgressions undoubtedly played a large role in his fate this week.
The real victims in all of this though are the clubs fans. They have had little to celebrate this year and when they finally had a reason to; it was taken away from them by a moment of utter stupidity. The fact they keep turning up to games shows their resilience and passion for their club.
The other issue here is the apparent lack of professional support provided to Carney. It's no secret he has struggled with alcohol and off-field incidents and as part of his punishment from his earlier incidents he was ordered to undertake rehabilitation. But it appears there was no follow up. And it appears now that the players are checking up on him to make sure he's okay.
The Sharks have announced they will assist Carney with counselling and support. It concerns me that the club, knowing his past, waited for Carney to make a mistake before providing such essential services to a young man who desperately needs them.
The RLPA needs to work much more closely with clubs and players to ensure that support and counselling is readily available at all times for all players.
Closing the stable door after the horse has bolted is very unprofessional.
The Sharks, in a haphazard manner, have taken the right action. This sort of behaviour should not be condoned. Sure there are players at other clubs who are still playing despite doing worse. That however is an issue of integrity for those clubs and a reflection of the culture they will accept to achieve success.
Cronulla while struggling this year have shown that their integrity is more valuable to them then success. It may seem to be a bit harsh given their current issues (no major sponsor, suspended coach, ASADA), but it is certainly noble.

The Halftime Spray #13 (2014)

Every year in Rugby League, fans are debating topics about illegal tackles, fighting and the like that goes on during games, whether the game is getting soft, if the judiciary is consistent, if the game's image is appealing to children or not and so on.
But one thing that happened on the field that we should never have to talk about, but sadly are this week, is a player alleging that a referee has been bribed.
Last weekend, Parramatta's Chris Sandow asked referee Ben Cummins "How much are they paying you?" after Parramatta were penalised in their game against Melbourne.
Cummins summoned Sandow to the sin bin for ten minutes.
Given that the game has been moulded and shaped to appeal more to children and mum's, Sandow's antics were the truly most unprofessional and disrespectful imaginable.
For journalists to label the comment as nothing more than ‘cheeky' is partially condoning the actions.
But even worse is that Parramatta coach Brad Arthur felt the need to lay the blame at the feet of the referees, as opposed to condemning Sandow's comment.
Arthur said "There needs to be a two-way street with respect shown to the players and the referee"
Well Brad, Sandow showed the utmost in disrespect, which was totally unwarranted. 
He went on to say that Sandow "probably shouldn't have said anything, but the players are out there busting their arse."
Probably. Probably?
He definitely shouldn't have said what he did Brad. There is no grey area here.
I can understand the frustration of feeling like the ref calls are going against you all game. But guess what, every single fan, player and administrator of every single sporting team in every single competition in every single country of the world has had that feeling.
They, like you Brad, have also had days when the dubious calls tend to go your way. You never criticise the referees on those days though do you?
Furthermore, you didn't pay the referees to make those calls, did you?
Sandow's deplorable behaviour deserve a suspension, to teach him a lesson that such comments will not and should not be tolerated. He should be made to undertake a refereeing course and do some training with the refs, maybe even officiate a junior game.
Arthur should be fined by the NRL. His comments have barely stopped short of suggesting that the referees are cheats.
This is the worst possible image that the game could show to children. Leaving it go unpunished is nothing more than a statement that this behaviour is okay and will be tolerated, when it most definitely should not.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Halftime Spray #12 (2014)

Last week, the Cronulla Sharks captain Paul Gallen revealed that the pressures and stresses of captaining his side engulfed by the ASADA investigation, prevented him from having a third child. He also raised the issue of his younger team mates who have not been coping mentally well with all the speculation.
Firstly I'd like to say thank you to Paul for raising this very pertinent issue. ASADA's investigation has been anything but private and ever since that infamous press conference last year, most athlete's in the country have been tarred with the same brush, while it would appear a fraction of them may be investigated for possible performance enhancing infringements.
But all along, no one has given much thought or care for the players' mental state. These players even do promotions for the NRL about mental health, especially among men, yet it seems no one has bothered to consider the mental health of these men.
Gallen's comments have seen people criticise the NRL for not acting soon enough on this issue. I'm not convinced that criticism is just. Some may ask, "isn't it the role of the Rugby League Players Association to help look after the players off-field welfare, where possible?"
The RLPA state that they "offer a framework of support services relevant to the needs of members over and above the NRL Administration, NRL Club and Player Agent influence."
I find it hard to believe that not one player at the Cronulla Sharks isn't a member of the RLPA. So I asked the RLPA on Twitter, "What percentage of professional Rugby League players in Australia are affiliated with you (the RLPA)?"
The response was a very resounding "All the NRL players."
So why have players not been getting assistance to help deal with the off-field dramas stemming from the ASADA investigation? Is it because players aren't asking for help? Should the RLPA actively contact players and clubs just to check up on them?
Either way, to me it doesn't appear to be an issue for the NRL, given that the RLPA are over and above the NRL as far as providing support services for players is concerned.
The RLPA can't make ASADA go away, but at least they can help players deal with the off-field pressures that have been heaped upon them via the investigation and the shoddy attempts at journalism by some people in the media, looking for a big scoop to further self-inflate their ego's.
These Rugby League players are humans after all.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Halftime Spray #11 (2014)

It's that time of year again. No, not Origin time.
I'm referring to the time when Craig Bellamy complains about the scheduling of Origin and uses his lack of star players to argue for stand-alone rep weekends.
Everyone rightfully goes after Bellamy and his comments and says "well my team has had to do without player(s) as well."
But Bellamy does raise a very valid point and one I have publicly championed in the past. The NRL is the most prolific club competition in the Rugby League World. This is a power that they should use to help promote the game and spread it further.
In order for this to happen though, the NRL season needs to be shortened. Currently it is carried out over 27 weeks, each team playing 24 games, having 2 byes each and an extra week off for the Trans-Tasman test.
I suggest the removal of bye rounds. Cut the season down to 22 games per side. Three stand-alone weeks for Origin and one stand-alone week for the Trans-Tasman match. That saves a week and gives every team 4 weeks off per year. More importantly, it allows all teams to play their full strength side every week.
The rep weekends could be used to have Test matches played between Pacific Island test sides, in a tri series. The winner could play the victor of a European Cup competition to determine the fourth team in the 4 Nations tournament at the end of the year.
It could also be used to televise a women's Rugby League test match. Games showcasing talent in rural Australia could also be played. Matches between other states is another option. Matches between clubs hoping to be in an expanded NRL could also be played.
There are so many great options available and so many games could be played, that fans would not be left wanting for content. The chance to see new teams and other players not in the NRL competing could be a huge drawcard.
Sadly though, it seems the NRL is content with the parameters it has erected around itself. So we'll all just go back to bagging old Bellyache instead…

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Halftime Spray #10 (2014)

This week the guessing game surrounding James Tedesco's home in 2015 was finally settled, when he agreed to a three year deal at the Canberra Raiders.
The decision though raises a few questions, not about the deal itself, many of which have seen heated debates across the League Unlimited forums:
Players should do their contract negotiations in the off season.Teams signing players mid-season has long caused ire amongst most fans. Watching a player wearing your teams colours, knowing that they won't be doing so the following year. Wondering if said player is focussed on the current season. Questioning if they are putting in enough effort etc.
These are legitimate concerns and fans could not be excused for thinking any of these. If players are allowed to negotiate and make deals about where they are playing the following year, then why not go all the way and just have a mid-season transfer window. If a player agrees to a contract mid-season with another side, he should be allowed to switch to that side straight away. The new club then takes over his remaining salary for the current year.
Should a player who has been signed mid-season be retained in the first grade side?
This is a very tricky question. In the case of Tedesco, he is the Wests Tigers best fullback, but if the club has decided that it won't shop around for a replacement, then they should continue working towards their plan of improvement in 2015. 
Why should the club enhance a departing player's credentials and abilities and suppress that of a retained player? In the Tedesco case, by playing him, his current side would only be helping Canberra at the detriment of the Wests Tigers. In other cases, the side may be a strong premiership chance and will use that player to help reach that greatest of goals.
Should players who leave a club purely for more money be seen in a poor light?
It's understandable for fans to instantly turn on a player after they've announced they are changing clubs and receiving a bigger salary. Loyalty is raised a lot in the modern game, but isn't really shown by any parties (the teams, the players or the governing body) anywhere near as much as it used to, or should do. In short, any player who has the good fortune to be offered a high salary is most likely going to take it. Rugby League players have around a decade to earn essentially the majority of their 40 years of income. If a seemingly injury prone player is in the same situation, then he is even more inclined to take the bigger money offer.
Should the NRL be doing more to reward clubs who produce more local junior talent than others, to help those clubs retain those players when they hit the NRL?Short answer is no. You can't force players to play at particular clubs. Furthermore, some clubs are fortunate to have vastly larger and stronger junior pools to select their future stars from than other clubs. The main priority is ensuring as many of these young players get to play in the NRL.
Some people believe in the romantic concept where loyalty prevails over greed, but in today's world, especially in professional sports, such a concept is becoming more and more rare.
Rugby League is a business. Players are assets. Fans are consumers.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Halftime Spray #9 (2014)

This is the first State of Origin series to feature two games in Brisbane since 2011. And it appears that the Queensland Rugby League have sought to recoup money from not having had two games in a series since then, by jacking up prices for tickets.
This decision has drawn the ire of not only fans, but also Queensland Origin coach Mal Meninga and Hall of Famer Wally Lewis.
Lewis said that the prices have pushed fans away, "A lot of them can't afford to go along to the game."
While the cheapest tickets sell for $80 (which is $50 more than most similar tickets to regular NRL season games) they have all been exhausted, and some 8,000 odd tickets remain unsold, the cheapest of these cost $220.
For a game that championed the working class from its birth, the QRL has sought to push those very people away. Given that there is a very affordable alternative to watch the game (at home on TV for free), it is utter madness to charge through the nose for tickets to the game.
What the QRL has done is blatantly stupid.
And it's for this reason alone that there should only be one game in Brisbane and one game in Sydney every year. Melbourne has proven to be a very viable third venue and has consistently had very strong crowd numbers over recent years.
While NSW officials have previously hinted that Melbourne is more pro-Queensland, the fact remains that it is a neutral venue and having three games in three different cities ensures that you will always get three sell-outs and you will be making the game available to a much larger number of fans.
Which is what the game should be doing, not trying to squire as much money as possible from the fans. Without the fans, there is no money. 
As Lewis also said, "It's really quite an embarrassing moment for the Queensland Rugby League." Meninga also called the price hikes "extremely disappointing." It is now being suggested that some tickets will be given away to ensure that there are no empty seats.
Last year the City v Country game at Coffs Harbour received massive criticism over exorbitant ticket prices, which saw a miserly crowd of 4,645 attend the match. The NRL corrected this issue this year. The fact that this incident was completely overlooked by the QRL is very poor indeed. 
Take the fans for granted at your own peril.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Halftime Spray #8 (2014)

The NRL season is approaching two notable times in the season. The State of Origin period, where a select few teams will be depleted of their most irreplaceable players, and the halfway point of the year. But is there anything we can learn from statistics alone when it comes to determining who will make the finals this year?
Probably not. But it won't stop me from giving it a red hot go!
I have done a few comparisons between the last 10 seasons and the differences between table placings after Round 9 and at the end of the season.
This alone can give us a bit of an idea who may reach the finals already.
Some key points:
  • Teams placed 15th and 16th after 9 Rounds have not made the finals in this time. So that would mean that Newcastle and Cronulla can start planning their Mad Monday celebrations.
  • The team placed third after 9 Rounds is the only side to have played in all 10 of the last 10 finals series. So pen in the Titans for finals footy.
  • Teams placed 1st and 2nd after 9 rounds have played in 9/10 finals series. Canterbury and Manly can be pencilled in.
  • Teams placed 4th and 5th after 9 rounds have played in 8/10 finals series. That means the Roosters and the Rabbitohs can be pencilled in as well.
At this stage, you're thinking, this is all quite predictable. But this is where things get silly.
  • Teams placed 6th and 13th after 9 rounds have played in 6/10 finals series. So Penrith and Dragons fans, hold onto your hats!
  • To round out the top 8, the team placed 11th after 9 rounds has appeared in half the finals series of the last decade. So broncos fans, don't give up just yet!
It's been widely accepted that 12 wins will guarantee a side a shot at the finals, but twice in the last decade, teams have made the finals with 11 wins. With the ladder a bit topsy-turvey at the moment, there is potential for the mid-table to become quite congested come the pointy end of the season.
So based on percentages of the past decade anyway, we can say that the finalists for 2014 will be Canterbury, Manly, Gold Coast, Sydney Roosters, Souths, Penrith, Brisbane and St.George-Illawarra.
The favourites for the wooden spoon is a bit more tricky, given that there have been 16 teams for 7 of the last 10 years.
The team sitting last after 9 rounds has gone on to win 5 wooden spoons. Or if you are a Cronulla fan, the team sitting 15th after 9 rounds has won more spoons than any other side, with 4.
Can we determine who will win the premiership? Of course not, but let's have a crack anyway!
  • Teams ranked 1st, 2nd and 4th after 9 rounds have won 2 premierships each.
  • Teams ranked 3rd, 5th, 6th and 13th after 9 rounds have won 1 premiership each.
So of our statistically most probable top 8, Brisbane will not win the premiership
  • The team ranked 1st after 9 rounds has played in 5 grand finals.
  • The teams ranked 2nd, 4th and 5th after 9 rounds have played in 3 grand finals.
  • 5th placed though has lost 2 deciders, 2nd and 4th have lost only one each.
So, it seems the Grand Final will be between Canterbury and one of either Manly or the Roosters.