Off the Wall

Even if the latest incident allegedly involving Todd Carney ends up being a prank among friends gone wrong (but what kind of a person sets a mate alight as a prank?) the incident again highlights a wider concern.

Todd Carney, whether he likes it or not, falls into the serial offender category when it comes to bringing the game into disrepute. But he is not alone - there are now half a dozen or so serial offenders in the NRL who have been extended extraordinary tolerance by clubs, and by the NRL.

The problem is that about half the incidents that bring the game into disrepute are committed by a handful of serial offenders.

I had been planning to write yesterday that the good news for the game was that we survived the Christmas-New year period without any incidents - unlike the AFL! Intuition told me not be rush in and how right it was.

Carney may not face criminal charges over the alleged incident at Airlie Beach but is he really a fit and proper person to hold a "licence" to play in the NRL given his record?

His recruitment by the Roosters as the answer to their prayers following yet another disappointing season bewildered many, yours truly included. But what was even more bewildering was that the NRL rubber-stamped his signing.

Carney is not alone, and he should not be singled out as the one serial offender to bring the game into disrepute. How about Greg Bird? Again, the Titans rushed to sign him up, and the NRL gave it the tick of approval, even though there were outstanding criminal charges against him.

The sad reality is that the tolerance clubs, and the NRL, extends to serial offenders is being abused.

If 2010 is to be a much better year for the game when it comes to off field incidents, then the tolerance being extended to serial offenders simply must be abandoned.

In the next couple of days I will outline just how critical a year 2010 will be for the game, and the NRL.

In a critical year when it comes to areas such as sponsorship, and possibly the beginning of television rights negotiations, the game desperately needs all the positives it can muster. Whether administrators like it or not, off field bad behaviour damages the rugby league brand.

We start 2010 in a relatively strong position - total television viewing numbers exceeded those of the AFL for the first time; attendance numbers held up in a difficult economic climate; and I detect public interest as strong as ever.

The NRL needs to minimise one of the few obstacles to a good season - more bad behaviour by serial offenders - now!