How far can a journeyman travel ?

  • by gorilla
  • September 17 2004 12:00AM

Journeyman players are common in rugby league ? players with long careers, moving from club to club. They don?t stand out like the stars and pin-up players, but each week they?re on the field, mainly remembered by the fans from the clubs they played for, rather than for stellar performances. Steady, reliable players.

John Elias was a journeyman, playing 134 matches between 1984 and 1994 with 5 clubs: Souths, Canterbury, Wests, Easts, and Balmain. He played with two French clubs, coached Lebanon in the 2000 World Cup and French club Pia.

I?d always had John pegged as a journeyman and never really thought much about him, but a newspaper court report from June 2004 brought back a little of John?s history ? a different type of journeyman?s life. A journey with an underbelly of crime and shame.

John Elias admitted that on the 7th of June 2003, he took a handgun from the boot of his car and fired two shots. When the smoke cleared in the South Strathfield McDonalds carpark, John?s betting accomplice, Raymond Younan, lay on the ground shot in the thigh.

Younan claimed Elias owed him $35,000. Elias claimed Younan had gone to his home the night before, where Elias lived with his mother, and showed a gun to Elias? brother. Elias also claimed Younan made death threats at the McDonalds on the day of the shooting, saying ?Grub, we are going to kill you now.? Elias went to his car, got the gun, and claims to have fired two shots at the ground to scare Younan.

This was not the first time the high-profile disgraced ex-player had trouble with the law. Elias had many jobs during a solid but unspectacular career, but in addition to a stint as a pallbearer and man-Friday in the funeral industry, John had also been working the other side of the fence.

John was jailed for nine months in 1995 for drug and firearms offences, having been trying to sell bullet-proof jackets and sub-machine gun parts. Trouble was the buyer was an undercover policeman. The drugs were amphetamines ? speed. Guns and drugs.

These are the instances we know about through court reports and media coverage of a footballer turned bad. The media has also been kind. When papers, radio and TV talk about the then Lebanese coach or ex-Sydney first grader playing for Lebanon, they don?t talk about the guns and drugs sales, or the ?betting commission agency?, or the shots fired off in a very public McDonalds car park. They give John some slack and don?t mention his indiscretions.

It?s the nature of league that there have always been hard and dodgy men that stand alongside the greatest of the game. We don?t often publicly talk about the crime, although the press has, of recent years, been having a field day with stories of drunkenness, boorish and pathetic late night behaviours. A finger up the bum by one player is reported in favour of the details of another pulling a wife along the street by her hair.

The players that have done the time for the crime seem to get another go with league. It?s a culture that says bring your heart and soul onto the field and leave behind the dross and the shame, we?ll judge you on your merits on the field. For the players, the measure of a man is made on the paddock. Sure, they all know if someone is a thief, beats their wife or screws his best mate?s girlfriend, but they still have to tackle and be tackled ? one on one.

Luckily, fans don?t have that unspoken camaraderie holding the secrets in. They?re more likely to see the humour or the disgrace.

John Elias had another brush with the law. He was given two year periodic detention in 1993 for demanding money with menace and masquerading as a police officer. It was claimed that John used to dress up as a policeman, go to well-known homosexual beats (toilets, parks, etc) and ?collar? the pooves. He was claimed to have both demanded money and/or engaged in sexual activities with the men under duress.

I can?t remember much of journeyman John anymore, these days I can only think of jailbird John. I also can?t get rid of the weird fact that given his work in the funeral industry and as a dress up/feel up policeman, Elias? experience with handling stiffs was almost stellar.

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