Off the Wall

It might be time for the CEO of the NRL, David Gallop, to pen another of his "Dear highly paid player" letters - and send it to the whole lot of them.

This time it does not need to be about not behaving badly when affected by strong drink, but about the need to all pull their weight when it comes to promoting rugby league, and the NRL premiership.

The great majority of players do an outstanding job, not only in being reasonably accessible to the media, but in the time they willingly put into helping junior league, visiting sick children in hospital, and helping any number of charitable and community causes.

Sadly, there are times when players - and especially high profile and highly paid players - let themselves down, their team down, and the game down.

That happened yesterday when the Dragons Darius Boyd treated the media, and therefore the fans, with contempt with an embarrassing performance before the media...in a scheduled media event, not a door stop type interview.

Wayne Bennett, who had a history of difficulties with the media when he was at the Broncos, not only spoke with Boyd about his attitude but also apologised to the media for it.

The media last night, and today, is hanging Boyd out to dry.

But he is not the real issue. The real issue is that rugby league is in a serious contest for media coverage with other codes and other sports. We need all the positive publicity we can get, not only to counter the PR campaign from the AFL in particular, but also to balance out the negative headlines whenever players behave badly.

The way that players like Nathan Hindmarsh, Jamie Soward, Scott Prince and Darren Lockyer - among many others - make themselves available to the media at short notice, and frequently, is the benchmark we need.

The AFL, especially in South East Queensland and Western Sydney, is upping the ante when it comes to publicity and media stunts. Part of its reason for doing so is that the greater media coverage it can get then the stronger its negotiating position is with major sponsors and with television companies with whom it has begun negotiating the next rights agreement.

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