Jarryd Hayne. We’re all fairly sick of hearing the name over the week, month, year or so. But will his rise and fall be an example for the future? I doubt it. Recently, Peter Fitzsimmons published an article in the Sunday Morning Herald discussing the negative impact of alcohol in Australian social and sporting culture. And he’s right, it’s something that we as a nation and the NRL need to start talking about more. But for me, this cheapens what Hayne did. It cheapens what Carney did. It cheapens what so many NRL stars have done time and time again.
‘Yeah but he was pissed.’
Thankfully, that won’t fly in the courts. This is a story of bad men, doing bad things. This is the story of kids who had nothing, suddenly gifted with all the fame and fortune handed to them, drunk on power. This is the story of the men our kids look up to as heroes, every weekend. Because as long as they play a good bit of footy, they’re alright.
Like most Australians, I grew up around sport. At the time, it seemed that good grades and rep teams were all that mattered. Winters were for rugby and summer was for water polo. Admittedly, the competition in these sports bread within me a healthy dose of competition and grit that will always come in handy. But once I began to step away from sports and realise I could read a few good books rather than watch 26 sweaty men bash up against each other all night, I started to see the many problems our nation has in relation to our most talented stars.
I want to cast your memory back in time, to a simpler time. It’s Athens, 2004, and Sally Robbins has done perhaps the most un-Australian thing imaginable: given up moments before the end of the race. She will forever be etched in our memories as ‘Lay-Down Sally’ – the girl who gave up on the world’s biggest stage. Sure, this performance of hers was far from admirable. Us Australians love the idea of the battler, someone who pushes through the pain for their mates. But what happens when our sports stars ‘lie down’ off the field? What does this look like?
I mentioned earlier that I had a self-imposed exodus from the sporting word upon leaving school. This allowed me to be openly critical of Australia’s obsession – particularly the NRL. For the first time in my life, I saw the code’s players as people; individuals not above morality or the law. And through this light, I noticed that many players were letting down their country and their teammates by ‘laying down’ off the field. From the Bulldog’s unruly behaviour on Mad Monday to Todd Carney pissing in his own mouth (skilful if not atrocious). Drunkenness, violence, an odd insistence on nudity bordering homosexuality between players – all of this is often attributes to ‘just what guys do’. Cue Foo Fighter’s There Goes My Hero.
If you want to read about Hayne’s current shameful debacle, then a quick Google search will give you all the goss you need. But I want to draw your attention to a man by the name of Matthew Lodge. A young player for the Brisbane Broncos – one of the best and most respected teams the NRL has to offer. But, Lodge is a criminal. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that in 2015, the player entered the home of a stranger in New York, assaulting him and causing damage to his home. Lodge spent time in American jails but was back on Australian soil in no time.
After this revelation, an ex-partner of Lodge’s came forward to discuss their abusive relationship. Fox Sports reports that Charlene Saliba has stated that:
‘It started with controlling behaviour, then name-calling, then came the emotional abuse, he started throwing things, physically restraining me, (he) spat in my face, then pushing and shoving me, which then lead to threats on my life’.
Lodge now sits comfortably on a contract worth $85,000 a year, living in one of the world’s most liveable cities.
If the courts have their day, which I truly hope they will, Jarryd Hayne will serve a lengthy sentence for his actions. Because too many of these men have gotten away with deplorable acts for far too long. These are broken men; shells of men. The question I leave you with is this: Are the actions of men like Hayne and Lodge no more heinous than Sally Robbins’? It is unAustralian to quit, mid-race. But is it unAustralian for an entire football code (NRL) to be riddled with allegations of drug use, domestic violence, and thuggery? Well, at the moment, Australia seems to think this is OK. As long as my team wins.