Off the Wall

The CEO of the Rabbitohs, Shane Richardson, is today reported as describing an incident involving his first grade coach and a departing first grade player thus:

"I don't think there is anything too major in it, but we will investigate it tomorrow and make a statement after that".

And the response from the NRL CEO was the usual "we are waiting for a report from the club" statement he dribbles out every time the game gets in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The details of the latest disgrace for a great game are slowly emerging. It is apparent that at an end of season drinking session, someone, allegedly Rabbitohs player David Fa'alogo, flatted his coach, Jason Taylor.

It is also alleged that Taylor was as "full as a state school hat rack" at the time.

Whatever the truth of the allegations, what is abundantly clear is that the NRL's way of dealing with off field incidents that bring the game into disrepute is a miserable and total failure. It simply makes a bad position for the game an even worse one.

And the nature of its failure was on parade again last night. It appears the Rabbitohs CEO knew nothing about an incident the previous night until the media told him about it on Monday afternoon! What does that say about the Rabbitohs administration?

And what does it say about the NRL administration that it consistently allows clubs, and club officials, to respond so pathetically week in week out to incidents that bring shame on the game?

At the end of this season, the whole failed NRL approach to off field issues must be dismantled.

The investigation of off field incidents must be taken out of the hands of club officials, and given to a permanent independent investigator, appointed by the NRL on an annual or term basis.

Any action taken by the NRL against a player, or official, should be based on the report of the independent investigator. And the investigator can advise the NRL whether that action should be taken before any court proceedings. Or whether there is sufficient doubt to delay action until the legal processes are completed.

The argument that this process would be a denial of the right to a court hearing is nonsense. There is ample precedent for regulatory authorities - and the NRL is a regulatory authority - taking action against licensees before or in spite of court proceedings.

The law can take its course and deal with players, and officials, as citizens. The game can deal with them effectively as licensed persons - and if needs be contracts, and club licensing agreements, can be amended to ensure the process has status.

The simple truth is that the response from the NRL to incidents arising from alcohol abuse has failed miserably. It is a process that does not put the best interests of the game first and foremost.

And a process that relies on the investigation by club officials of club players, and other officials, is flawed from the outset.

David Gallop is not incompetent. He has the best interests of the game at heart. But on this issue his approach, backed up by the NRL clubs, is a failed and discredited one.

We now have to wait until the Rabbitohs investigate, then report to the NRL. And even then the NRL might leave any penalty up to the club to decide.

It is just not good enough, not by a long shot.

A circumstance in which a first grade coach was allegedly knocked out by a player in a hotel has not surprisingly made the headlines last night and today.

Coming on the day of the game's premier awards night, and at the start of the semi-finals, the timing is appalling.

The alleged incident is bad enough - the way it is being "investigated" simply makes it worse.

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