NRL players Todd Carney and Athony Watts are in the headlines yet again.
For the uninitiated, Carney’s Roosters’ team-mate Anthony Watts is alleged, around 4am on Sunday morning just past, to have decided to do some late night boxing training, substituting his girlfriend for a punching bag.
The only thing is, in piecing together the night’s timeline while investigating the complaint made against Watts, it came to light that the former North Queensland Cowby had been quaffing hopps, malt and barley with Carney at a number of establishments in Sydney while their teammates were taking an unwelcome flogging from the Brisbane Broncos.
Watts’s alleged assault of a 24-year-old female is set to be heard by a magistrate on Thursday. By all accounts, his tenure with the Roosters is most likely over. Watts was also shown the door by Manly for alcohol related misdemeanors in the past and as recently as March this year was forcibly ejected from a Bondi Beach hotel.
Its hard to see – at least externally, and not being privy to the contractual penalties which may be forced on the Roosters – any compelling evidence that would persuade Bondi’s powerbroker’s to keep him around.
But Carney – who is in no way associated with the assault – and his League future is in doubt. Again.
The old school types will, as usual, bemoan the “P.C set” and the sanitisation of the game. Were it not for the alleged actions of Watts in the early hours of Sunday morning, they’ll tell you, no one would be any wiser about the pair’s activities. They’re just boys-being-boys and like the clear majority of us were enjoying a drink on the weekend. For heaven’s sake, they’ll tell you, Aussie Cricket skipper Michael Clarke was in the headlines for (gasp) having a drink with mates on his 30th birthday. At a pub walking distance from his apartment!
Notwithstanding the charges laid against Watts, these arguments are all fair claims.
What the Roosters players, members, fans and officials shouldn’t tolerate however, is that players with a history of a lack of discipline and self-restraint have thumbed their noses at measures agreed upon by the team in an effort to claim a Premiership. A Premiership that – last year’s scoreline against the Dragons notwithstanding – is tantalisingly close. Both players have breached team rules; being out on the drink while injured.
Concurrently, they’ve also broken a pledge to the club to stay off the sauce for the 2011 season.
Those of you who know me, know I’m no fan of the Chooks. But I am a fan of sports stars across a range of codes who do everything in their power to extract the maximum from their abilities in order to reach the pinnacle of their craft.
Maybe players such as Braith Anasta, Shaun Kenney Dowell and Anthony Minichiello don’t have the issues with alcohol that have plagued Carney over the journey, but you can bet that there’s areas of discipline that they adhere to each week of the season which are a genuine struggle for them to honor.
You can tell each week which of the guys who pull on the tri-colors, are nothing less than totally committed to delivering the club its 13 Premership, the elusive victory which would be only its second title in the past 30 years.
Personally, I’d love to be in the room, if and when Carney and Watts front the playing group. How they are received and the level to which they are accepted or chastised by their teammates will be a measure of their true commitment to success.
The obvious comparison is the Steve Johnson story in the AFL. Johnson’s story is well known and doesn’t bear repeating here. Geelong insiders all agree that Johnson’s banishment – regardless of his importance to their on-field performance – was the rocket up the collective arse.
It was a statement which said that no matter who you are and your importance to on-field success, you follow the rules or we effectively stand for nothing but greeting-card platitudes and corporate feel-good mission statements and empty platitudes.
Carney and Watt’s immediate playing future is out of their hands. I don’t envy the position Moore Park’s decision makers find themselves in and it’s an easy call from the sidelines to kick these guys to the kerb.
Should these guys be shown the door, it’s the heat over Carney that the Roosters hierarchy will need to quell.
But at the end of the day, while members and supporters may feel short-changed, Roosters administrators should never have been placed in this position by the players in the first place.
If Carney and Watts had simply shown the discipline required of professional sportspeople to live up to the expectations of their teammates and execute a standard of off-field behaviours shown in the past to deliver success, we may just have been talking about the games from the weekend in isolation.
Instead, words like scandal are being used alongside NRL in headlines yet again.
Carney has had multiple last chances. Watts was on his last chance if we’re to belive Steve Noyce’s public comments in March.
Sydney Roosters officials will wait on the outcome of their investigation to be reviewed by the NRL before the fates of the players are decided. This is mere political buck passing. The Roosters have a chance to, like the Cats in 2007, make a decision. A decision about being serious about success, or taking the easy road which says that Carney is too valuable a player and “discipline” him accordingly.
Geelong have since won flags in 2007, 2009 and, but for some canny tactics since outlawed in the AFL, may even be polishing a 3rd cup in 4 years.
The Roosters have just their 2002 title and the Back-to-back glories of 1974-75 to show for their efforts in the last 40 years of League.
We watch with interest, the developments in coming days.