Off the Wall

The selection of Todd Carney as the "Dally M" Player of the Year is a great story for Todd, and for rugby league. It is a story of the triumph of hope over hopelessness.

Two years ago his rugby league career looked to be cactus.

Within hours of Todd winning arguably the game's most prestigious award, another player with an equally troubled history stole the headlines from him - the Brisbane Lions Brendan Fevola.

And the contrast between the two could not be greater - or more advantageous to the NRL, Todd Carney, and rugby league.

Fevola is a real problem for the Lions - but a bigger problem for the AFL. It has taken a weak and inadequate approach to his multiple past misbehaviour and is today paying the price for it.

That is where the two stories stand in stark contrast.

While the media is rightly giving plaudits to Todd's mother, and the publican in Far North Queensland who threw him a lifeline, two other people deserve to charge in the credit for his remarkable turnaround.

The first is John McIntyre, the Chairman of the Raiders - the club which sacked Todd in 2008 after a series of incidents than went close to sending him to prison. The Raiders took a tough line, and one that not all players at the club were happy with. But time has justified their tough stance.

The second person who deserves credit is the NRL CEO, David Gallop. When the Raiders sacked him, the NRL made it clear he would not be automatically registered with another club.

As a result, he played the 2009 season in Atherton in the Cairns competition - for something like $150 a game. He also worked in  a local hotel, for a basic wage.

The rest is history - he turned his life around, Brian Smith threw him another lifeline, and the NRL endorsed it.

The Fevola story could not be a greater contrast.

The AFL condoned his misbehaviour for years - and when Carlton finally showed him the door, it allowed the Lions register him straight away.

The result was that he suffered no penalty or adverse consequence for a string of off field disasters - arguably worse than Todd Carneys.

The NRL does not always get things right. Indeed it often gets things wrong - but on this occasion it backed to the hilt a courageous decision by John McIntyre and his board and coaching staff.

The Todd Carney story is the good news story of the 2010 season in my view. And yesterday's Fevola debacle just made it even better.

We are, at long last, getting our "management" of player behaviour issues right - and are starting to reap the dividends as a result.

Todd Carney is the first big dividend. We should celebrate his success - and hope it continues!

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