Stuart's steps to Redemption

Australian rugby league coach Ricky Stuart joins illustrious company when it comes to accepting fault or being contrite. Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli, star of the TV show Happy Days, found it impossible to admit he was wrong and former prime minister John Howard refused to say "sorry" to indigenous Australia for the treatment of Aborigines referred to as the Stolen Generation.

In the end a script writer prised an apology, albeit a very flimsy one out of The Fonz, whilst an official apology to the Stolen Generation came from new prime minister Kevin Rudd within weeks of winning the election. Stuart's saviour can only be himself.

The belated apology via his agent John Fordham, was grossly inadequate. If the nature of the allegations are as bad as they have been reported - which now seems the case - why embark on an expensive investigation which will only confirm what everyone already knows?

Stuart should step up and announce that he will stand down from his post effective immediately. It is the only way that he can prevent a dented reputation from being completely obliterated. Stuart owes it to the game, the fans and his family as much as the targets of his abuse - referee Ashley Klein and referee official Stuart Cummings.

The fact the incident occurred long after the finish of the game, makes it infinitely worse and utterly inexcusable. The fallout will be felt not only across all sports at all levels but throughout the community with the youth in particular, challenging authority be it their coach, their parent, their employer.

Stuart's "foul-mouthed meltdown" makes a mockery of "The Game's Best Thinker" tag that accompanies his column in The Sunday Telegraph, because his actions were as far away from intelligent as you could possibly get.

The early defence from Stuart's sympathisers of the coach being the victim of his own "excessive passion" was as puerile as lame as the first of the post-match apologies. Imagine how many people will adopt the same argument as a reason for poor behaviour?

I commend The Sunday Telegraph's Phil Rothfield for sticking by the Australian coach, but to believe that a written apology should prevent Stuart from being sacked and that the Fairfax press has been on a witch hunt, is missing the point completely. For goodness sake, it took the best part of a week and some parental advice for Stuart to realise that what he had done was not only unforgivable but would not be tolerated in any workplace.

In a pathetic attempt to deflect blame, Stuart supporters were critical of the ARL for booking the referee and the Kangaroos into the same hotel, believing it "was asking for trouble". Trouble from whom? Certainly not from Klein, whose exemplary behaviour as a referee both on and off the field should be saluted, never questioned.

This stain on the game will have ramifications within the corporate world as well. No reputable company or organisation would want to attach its brand to a sport that fails to mete out the appropriate punishment for what are serious allegations.

The powers-that-be have shown a distinct lack of leadership by not taking swift and decisive action. With each passing day rugby league is being cast in a very bad light and in doing so, providing rival football codes with valuable ammunition as they vie for future markets in regions which were once rugby league strongholds.

Parents more than ever these days, are directing their children towards sports which embrace discipline and good behaviour both during and after participation. So when you have the coach of the national team conduct himself so disgracefully, there must have been a collective cringe from the game's development officers. A tough assignment made exceedingly more difficult no doubt.

I know I speak for the masses when I implore that the Australian coach nip this in the bud by calling a press conference to make a sincere and remorseful apology followed by the handing in of his resignation.

Only by doing this, can the healing begin, that of the game and that of the reputation of one Ricky Stuart.

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