Why is it that when footballers get themselves in to trouble we go through the same wave of emotions? When a story breaks of another player who’s in trouble with the law we all feel the same way. This week I want to look at the Mitchell Pearce incident over the weekend and liken it to the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief model.
Let me start by staying that in no way, shape or form do I condone what he did. Nor will I chastise him for his actions either (well maybe a little). I will however try and present this weeks events in a new light.
1. Denial. When the story first broke early Sunday morning through social media, the reports were extremely sketchy. News of an NRL player getting themselves in to trouble in the Cross were starting to surface. The twittersphere went in to overdrive as rumours circulated that an NRL player had been arrested for untoward behaviour. Surely not another Blake Ferguson incident before the Women in League round? Surely players these days couldn’t be that stupid to put themselves in to a position where they’re bringing the game in to disrepute?I just don’t want to believe it. I found myself asking these questions not wanting to believe that this was the case but as the sun rose on a beautiful Mothers day, the louder and louder the reports became and eventually police reports confirmed that Sydney Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce had been arrested for refusing to leave a licensed premises.
2. Anger. Why Mitch why? Why would you do something so stupid? Why would you put yourself in a situation like this? Surely you would know better! There was no way I could deny this any further. NSW Police released a statement. The Roosters released a statement. The NRL Integrity Unit released a statement. Like most I was livid. How can this young man who is idolised by so many betray his fans like this? Does he even care about how the fans feel or is he so removed from reality that he just doesn’t care. I found myself thinking I hope the NRL throws the book at him. And as further reports began to surface of his weekend bender, the more and more angry I got. What’s going through your head Mitch when you get kicked out of one venue because you’ve had too much to drink? Well the answer to that…lets go to Kings Cross. So what do you do when you get arrested in Kings Cross, fined and banned for 48 hours from returning there? Let’s go to the Casino with Boyd Cordner.
3. Bargaining. The weekend is over and my anger towards another NRL player looking like a clown on the juice was starting to settle as further information of what actually happened on the night in question began to surface. The picture was becoming clearer. Channel Nine aired exclusive CCTV footage from inside the Beach Haus. Mitch lunged at a young lady trying to get her attention. The unfortunate thing for Mitch is that this attention was not reciprocated. Someone needs to teach Mitch what no means. The young lady takes offence to this unwarranted approach from Mitch and notifies police officers who happened to be at the venue. If only you would have gone home after getting booted from the Clovelly Hotel Mitch. Why didn’t you just go home when they said go home champ? And why did this girls have to snitch on Mitch? Roosters fans jumped to Mitch’s defence saying what he did didn’t really warrant that much attention. Some parts of the media actually started condemning the young lady for her role in the saga. Surely the NRL would look at what has actually occurred and not think much of it. The police have now dropped the case. Mitch should be ok now right?
4. Depression. By Wednesday, Mitch was fined $20,000 and suspended from playing one NRL match but was free to play Origin. I now found myself not wanting to read the papers. I’d had enough of this already. It started to get me down. Why do these young players not see how privileged they really are? They have the world at their feet. They’re earning an income that less than 1% of the population would ever earn. But most importantly, all this story did was take away from what should’ve been a great week leading in to the Women in League round. The one round where we recognise all the efforts women play in making this the greatest game of all. But for four days all we read was Mitchell this and Mitchell that. Senior players started to chime in. The general consensus was that Mitch should have known better not to put himself in this situation.
5. Acceptance. After almost a week of the media being polarised by this incident it all dawned on me. I finally understand what’s going on. Two key phrases were thrown around all week. “Alcohol is a problem in the NRL today” and “Kid”. We put it down to the fact that Mitchell Pearce was doing what any normal kid would be doing on a Saturday night and that the NRL needed to change this drinking culture. Wrong! Mitchell Pearce is not a kid. He’s an adult who is old enough to not only make choices in his life, but know better. As adults we all make decisions in our lives that define who we are. In this case Mitchell Pearce has clearly illustrated he’s an idiot. He chose to go out on Saturday night. He chose to drink himself silly and be asked to leave The Clovelly Hotel. He chose to kick on with his mate Boyd Cordner and head on over to Kings Cross for more alcohol. He chose to make a scene when asked to leave The Beach Haus. He chose to go to the Casino after being released by police. No one forced him to drink to excess. No one forced him to make all those choices on the night in question. Mitchell Pearce is an adult, the same way Blake Ferguson, James Tamou and Josh Dugan are adults. My “uh-huh” moment came when I realised that we as a society are continually looking to place blame on something. Something is causing our behaviour. We’re a product of our environment. No. The buck stops with us. We make choices in our lives that define us. Mitch made some bad ones and has made bad ones in the past. Hopefully he now realises how privileged his life really is. If he doesn’t, come and spend some time with some working folk out in Sydney’s Western suburbs who need 30 years to pay off a mortgage that his annual salary would cover. We’ve already lost so much talent due to stupidity in our game, we don’t need to lose more. Get your S*#t together!
By Anthony Mitri – NRLHUB