Off the Wall

The more we read and learn about the events following Timana Tahu's decision to leave the NSW Origin team, the more apparent is that NSWRL officials, including those at the highest level, must be held accountable along with Andrew Johns.

Let there be no doubt about it, this whole sorry saga could have horrendous long term consequences for the greatest game of all.

I don't know whether the Neanderthals running the NSWRL and the ARL appreciate it, but rugby league's future is massively linked to the total embrace of players from a range of ethnic backgrounds, and most notably players with an indigenous, or Pacific Islander, heritage.

Today something like one in three players in the NRL premiership has an indigenous or islander heritage. One in four players in Maroons teams in the thirty years of Origin have - and the proportion is growing yearly.

While there have generally been more indigenous/islander players in the Maroons, their presence is growing in the Blues as well, a reflection of the enormous growth of Pacific Islander and Maori players in western Sydney clubs.

Does anyone seriously believe the AFL would have recruited Israel Folau if he did not have Pacific Islander heritage? The AFL knows, even if the ARL doesn't, that the this is a rich recruitment area, and I suspect the AFL also believes the ARL has largely neglected it.

The attempt by NSW team officials, and one assumes NSWRL management, to try and cover up the REAL reason why Timana Tahu gave away his place in the Blues Origin team is set out very clearly in the media today.

News Limited, and the NRL, which have no role in State of Origin team management, but a real stake in the games integrity, and its future, need to demand today an independent inquiry into the attempted cover-up...an attempt which included seeking to imply it was all Tahu's fault - injury and personal issues were trotted out.

We now know that the NSWRL became aware it had a crisis on its hands around lunchtime Friday. It was not until an hour or two before the first editions of Sunday's newspapers (around 5PM Saturday) that the full story began emerging - and it was not until later on Saturday night that Johns resigned as NSW Assistant Coach.

Was the attempted cover up ordered by Carr and the NSWRL and ARL Chairman, Colin Love? If not, how much did they know about it, and what did they do about it? Or were they totally ignorant? What did Blues coach, Craig Bellamy, know about the attempted cover up?

These are questions which must be answered - and anyone who was involved in a cover up must surely be forced to resign.

Rugby league, more than any other sport, must have an absolute zero tolerance policy when it comes to racism in any form. We have a stronger multi-cultural mix in our game than any other.

Officials who don't appreciate that must be run out of the game.

And the game - at origin, test as well as NRL premiership levels, must be run by an independent commission by the end of 2010.

One final point needs to be made about some of the officials running the game.

Andrew Johns has been extended extraordinary leniency by the men running the ARL and NSWRL. When he admitted cheating the NRL drug abuse rules for years, nothing was done about it.

He was honoured and embraced as if nothing had happened. He made the Team of the Century.

One has to wonder if a tougher stance had been taken in the past then the events of last week in the Blues origin camp would not have happened?

That is not so much a question for Johns to answer - but the bosses of the NSWRL and the ARL need surely be asking themselves today?

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