If only Rodgers and Hammerstein could have got their hands on this years NRL headlines. The subsequent script may well have rivaled such classics as The King and I, Oklahama and Cinderella. The beauty of sport, in general, is that it provides as much extrinsic value as it does intrinsically. In fact, it was Nelson Mandela who said “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does”. In my opinion, no other sport unites, excites and delights in quite the same way as rugby league does.
I was at the Bulldogs v Panthers game on Saturday night with a few of my friends and our conversation shifted constantly from Sandor Earl’s infraction notice to Ben Barba’s move to Brisbane on compassionate grounds, to “who will coach the Raiders next year?”, to speculation on Blake Ferguson’s next career move, then back to Sandor Earl and the ASADA investigation. And round and round it went. By the time we came up for air, 20 minutes of the game had already transpired.
The very next morning I had planned a quiet and relaxing Father’s Day breakfast celebration with my family, but instead, found myself embroiled in a social media frenzy when news of an incident involving the human headline, Ben Barba, accused of allegedly punching his partner Ainslie Currie back in February of this year, had surfaced. This sent every social media and technological communication device into overdrive. Twitter, Facebook, SMS, Instagram, you name it. Whatever gets the message across the quickest. So much for a “footy free” Father’s Day, as my wife would have it. “Forget Father’s Day, darling, this is far more important”. Rumours were rife. What does this mean to the Bulldogs? Is Greenburg in trouble? Will this derail the club? Was there a cover up? Lies? Deception? Innuendos? Is this why the senior players wanted Barba out? I told you this was better than a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic!
Suddenly, the Sandor Earl story paled into insignificance. It was now fish and chip wrapper. 24 hours is an eternity in rugby league. By the time you read this article, Ben Barba might be summoned and charged for assault, Todd Greenburg might be stood down from his post as NRL Head of Football. Don’t you dare blink!
So…..who will get the coaching job at Canberra? I’m hearing Neil Henry. He has big Mal’s blessing. North Queensland coach? The rumour is Trent Barrett but don’t be surprised if someone like Kevin Walters or Jason Taylor’s name is mentioned. Where will Blake Ferguson go? The Sharks are favoured, but the Dogs are in with a shot despite their NDP (no dickheads policy). Will Anthony Milford be released on “compassionate grounds”? I hate that term! All will depend on the new coach. Will Ricky leave Parramatta? My mail is that he will honour his contract (now, that will be a first!). Will $BW go back to Rugby? Why would anyone bite another players genitals?? Has the squirrel grip fallen out of favour? What about the ongoing ASADA investigation which could, theoretically, bring down a club like the Cronulla Sharks? Let’s leave that one for another time…
All this, and we haven’t even mentioned a word about on-field news, notwithstanding the fact that we are less than 2 weeks away from the semi finals. Isn’t that typical of our game? People say all this controversy is not good for the game. Bollocks! I love the headlines. Fans love the headlines. Controversy is the oxygen that enables the blood to circulate through the veins of all sports lovers. Without it, we are left with a sanitised collection of stereotypical sequence of events. In other words, controversy adds colour to an otherwise dull and grey situation. That’s precisely why I love this game. It is real life theatre. It is neither contrived nor scripted. It is raw and real. “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” ― Marilyn Monroe