It's beyond comprehension how the Sharks fielded a team in the NRL opening round given the revelations of the last two days.
The club has splintered from within over pressures brought from outside and while the players have reasonable legal grounds to be holding their positions, the sacking of four staff and the standing down of the coach over allegations of illegal performance enhancing drug use appears to label them guilty even if a hamstrung system of justice hasn’t.
It’s been a highly damaging two days for the club and the NRL, despite claims the game must go on. It’s impossible to justify the NRL competition rolling along in round one, with a shattering drama being played out concurrently. One club, the majority of its players – and possibly other clubs – are under this continuous black cloud. Yet fans are exhorted to hang tough.
This is the way the Australian Crime Commission, the government and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority were hoping it would go to claim the ‘‘scalps’’ needed to consolidate their report. They required testimonies. The drip feed of information from the Cronulla club is galling and legally astute legal counsel would be picking holes in the ‘‘evidence’’ so far. But the prosecution case is building.
Talk to those same legal advisors in assessing the players’ positions and the word is that those 14 players (or more) should keep mum – as they are – and not admit to anything. No drug tests have been failed. Yet we divert our attention back to the ACC report and it’s summation about ‘‘peptides’’ and the rapidity with which they leave the body. Far too swiftly for any belated drugs test.
Legal advice says it would be impossible to indict the players on ANY use of illegal substances because the proof of them actually taking the alleged substances is non-existent. And how did they know that what they were allegedly given was what medical and science advisors told them it was? And did they take the said substances as instructed? This is where testimonial evidence like the Lance Armstrong case will be the critical factor. Some players will have to own up, if they haven’t already. Surely, in light of the outpourings from within the club and information gathered, whether by fair means or foul, there are extreme doubts about the Sharks’ immediate future.
Those involved in rugby league over a long period of time will see the irony. This was a sport built on strong bonds and unity. The unwritten code of closing ranks and information shut-out has been blown apart. The internal combustion of the club in focus is gobsmacking. For the Sharks chairman to come out yesterday and allege players of taking of ‘‘equine’’ drugs just adds to the ACC case.
While one sympathises with young players who’ve been misguided by the authorities within club ranks, there must be, in professional sport, personal responsibility. A duty of care argument centring on the shortcomings of club management will be paraded in court when that day arrives and it will be strongly argued on behalf of the players. A philosophy one would like their own son or daughter to make is to be brave enough to stand alone in the face of peer pressure. Ignorance is not bliss.
Mind you, requesting the players take six month bans for admission of use (the legality of which has been questioned) was an extraordinary development.
Now this still doesn’t change the view that the ACC report was poorly administered. The information coming to light now should have been released earlier. After all, it was a year-long investigation.
What has changed is the narrative from one beleaguered club. They believe wrong was done by their own management. Their decision to terminate key parts of that management is telling. As a result they’ve transferred pain to the players. Those same players who took the field yesterday, playing for their deposed coach.
There’s a bad taste in the mouth.
Women dominate in world of surfing
International Women’s Day has come and gone with another plea from federal Sports Minister Kate Lundy for more television for women’s sport. And it’s hard to argue given the predilection of commercial television and newspapers for their male counterparts.
But surfing is one sport where the women are eminently marketable and the quality in the ranks is rising with every passing year. We saw one such example with the final of the Quiksilver Pro on the Gold Coast where two young South Coast women fought out a thrilling final.
The win of Tyler Wright, originally from Culburra, was a victory for tenacity and competitive instinct. Wright’s winning wave came in the last minute of the final against Sally Fitzgibbons. That also set up the possibility of a rather unique treble in world sport which may well have materialised (or evaporated) after these words were tapped.
Tyler’s younger brother, Mikey, destroyed a top field to win the king of the groms at the same event and elder brother Owen, one of the rare talents in the men’s ranks, was eliminated late yesterday.
What a talented family of sportspeople.
Pain continues for Waratahs
It made for uncomfortable viewing...yet again. The NSW Waratahs’ demise at the hands of Super Rugby’s best Australian outfit – the Brumbies.
The Waratahs have been promising to deliver for years, building up to something special. Unfortunately, with a staid, unimaginative game and leaky defence, they proved to be no match for the authoritative ACT outfit. The final try from the home team, a spectacular length-of-the-field effort, was symbolic of the past few years of painful Waratah viewing; a promising move ignited by the halfback down the short side, followed by a chip from the winger ended up with barely a glove being laid upon the Brumbies’ fullback as he set up the response.
The Tahs half got it right.
The Australian game, with the exception of the Brumbies’ well organised and creative play, lacks the sparkle and finesse of the New Zealand and some South African teams.
Sandwich an Australian offering on pay TV in and around a match from across the Tasman and you’ll quickly see the difference in pace, energy and skill.
There is much work to be done on the franchise and national level, should Wallabies coach Robbie Deans fulfil his ambition and take Australia back to the number one ranking.