The final round of the regular season has passed, leaving eight teams to fight it out for the premiership and the remaining eight off to Mad Monday.
Rugby league players are under incredible scrutiny for 10 months a year, having to keep their bodies in as good a condition as they can as they get pommelled week to week for our enjoyment. It seems like every year there is a Mad Monday drama, accompanied by calls to cut the outdated tradition. Trying to deny young men a drink that the rest of society can indulge in whenever they like is over the top and will never be able to be properly enforced.
That said, the Bulldogs could have done it better. Booking the same outdoor pub that they had been in the last few years wasn’t the cleverest idea. Getting naked in a beer garden at said pub isn’t really necessary either, nor was the accompanying squirrel grip that Adam Elliot received from one of his mates. Footballers are entitled to enjoy themselves, they are also ambassadors to the game and need to not act like idiots like some of the behaviour appeared but they deserve to be left alone by prying cameras away from the field of play or training paddock.
In this day and age every single person has a camera in their pocket, making it easy for any punter to rile up and film a sports star for a laugh and send the footage online for thousands to see, possibly even getting paid by news agencies for it. The actual media, in this case The Daily Telegraph sent cameramen out with the sole goal of finding a negative story to report on. They got it and it was front and back page news, and let’s face it “Canterbury Bulldogs players enjoy civilised and uneventful end of season celebrations” was never going to sell papers. A headline about any of the four evenly poised finals matches this weekend may have though, we’ll never know.
This is all leading to the snowballing distrust between the players and the media. Josh Morris defended his team on Instagram citing perspective of the photos. This month we had a public spat between Andrew Fifita and Phil Rothfield. Ben Te’o refusing to acknowledge Danny Weidler’s questions a few years back was great viewing but exemplifies the problem. We are trying to open up players to the fans and our middle ground, the media, are not helping and it is creating a disconnect that ultimately closes off players to the fans.
News Corporations want to sell papers and make money. Negative stories sell. It’s a well-worn cliché but rugby league players do an incredible amount in the community, a fraction of which gets reported on because it just isn’t as interesting to read. The sport is trying to grow, players now get interviewed on the sidelines walking to the sheds at half time and officials are mic’d up taking the game right into the viewers living room and inspiring children to play rugby league. Actively hunting out stories about player misbehaviour does not.
Rugby League is an ongoing drama, it always has been and always will be. Players are young men and will make the same mistakes that the rest of society do. It is true that given their stature in society they have a greater responsibility but what has happened this week has been entrapment. The whole sport is poorer for the coverage that this and a few more families might decide to head to the Sydney Swans vs GWS Giants final this weekend as a result.