Off the Wall

The decision by Wendell Sailor to retire inevitably requires a review of his career - the good, the bad, and the rest.

There have been a couple of incidents that are a blemish, and one not insignificant one.

But at least he took the most serious transgression - testing positive for cocaine - on the chin, paid a substantial penalty, and has been an effective campaigner among young players against drug taking ever since.

On balance he leaves the game with honour, and with dignity. The transgressions - the main one occurring during his rugby period - undoubtedly remain prominent in the minds of some, but I believe he is entitled to depart the game with his reputation restored.

And what has impressed me is that he has personally worked hard to restore it, and that since his return to rugby league he has given his very best, on and off the field.

Because his career in league was "split" - after he took John O'Neill's fistful of dollars and switched to rugby for a few years - we tend to forget just how long his rugby league career actually was.

It dates back to 1993. There would be no more than a handful of first grade players around today whose career dates back that far. He has played 222 first grade matches, represented Queensland in Origin 14 times, and was a Kangaroo 16 times.

When he switched codes he attracted my ire in a column on another site, and did so more than once, for talking down the code which served him very well indeed. But in more recent years he made up for that by talking down the other code, so all is forgiven.

He deserves credit for what he has done to support junior rugby league, and his wider community work, since he joined the Dragons.

And since his return to rugby league via the Dragons he has helped put fans through the turnstiles...and given the game some good publicity into the bargain.

I need to be careful about saying he was a colourful character, lest the politically correct object. But in the best sense of the word he was just that!

The game needs players who are not afraid to be a bit different - and a showman or three never did us any harm.

It is interesting that his first, and last, coach, Wayne Bennett was with him when he announced his retirement today. Bennett has stood by him through good times and bad and one that if he had wanted one more season he would have got it.

When you tally up the Wendell Sailor "ledger" the good outweighs the bad. He should be despatched into retirement with our good wishes.