Off the Wall

In a decade or so, journalism, media studies and communications students will be engaged in case study work of the Sydney Roosters PR strategy this week.

And they will be studying it in the context of what NOT to do in issues and crisis management!

We have got quite used to NRL club officials handling crisis issues appallingly but the performance of the Roosters this week will really be textbook stuff in the future.

A bad situation concerning players Todd Carney and Anthony Watts has been made a whole lot worse by the worrying efforts of the Roosters CEO, Steve Noyce, and the club generally.

And, quite frankly, the games CEO, David Gallop, should have done better as well.

The news about Watts's criminal charges, and Carney being out on the drink with him before the alleged offences, leaked out on Sunday. Note - leaked out, not released by the Roosters in a prepared statement.

When the club CEO was put on the spot on the issue by journalists on Sunday he foundered - and he has been floundering ever since.

At no stage were the Roosters seen to be on the front foot. That gave the media a field day.

When the club finally announced what it was "doing" about Watts and Carney late yesterday, Sky News broke into its 5pm news to take live coverage of the Noyce press "conference". What a pity it decided to do so.

If Carney is suffering from depression he needs help - but given his status in the game, his importance to the club, and his troubled history, it is surprising that symptoms were not noticed by the clubs medical team sooner. Surely his poor form this season rang alarm bells somewhere?

The club may have outlined what it is doing, and not doing, with regard to Carney and Watts, but it has failed to own up to its own significant failures.

The most obvious is how could it possibly allow Carney to stay in Sydney while the team was playing in Gosford? The argument that he had approval to visit his mother in Goulburn is not good enough.

Surely the clubs best player should have been with the team in Gosford for the game against the Broncos?

I have done extensive work in crisis management, issues management and dealing with the media in my career. If I had sat down and written out half a dozen things the Roosters should NOT do, the Roosters would have ticked all six boxes!

But the Roosters poor efforts should not disguise the fact that the NRL needs to take the management of off field behaviour issues, issues that bring the game into disrepute, out of the hands of the clubs.

The game cannot afford the bumbling efforts of the last few days to continue.