lifestyle

Can someone - anyone - teach football players to stop acting like idiots?

Jessica Mauboy starring in an ad for the NRL
Jessica Mauboy starring in an ad for the NRL

By WENDY SQUIRES

If ever there was a celebrity so likeable she could sell fur coats to PETA it is Australia’s singing sweetheart, Jessica Mauboy.

Her smile, her talent, her every girl appeal, I would defy anyone to disrespect the incredible singer, actress, and now, female face of the NRL.

But sadly, even such a failsafe marketer’s dream can’t polish the proverbial turd that is the continuing misogynistic embarrassment of football in this country, both NRL and AFL.

Don’t agree? Well here’s two words for you – Mad Monday. As teams are eliminated from finals towards the end of the season, they traditionally hold a piss up to celebrate, a combination of bonding, booze and blokes that is a recipe for disaster.

Let’s forget the past rapes, beatings, public urination, drunken brawls, lurid text messages, fingers up other players’ bums, biffo, sexist language and just plain disgraces that have marred the major codes and focus on the last couple of weeksshall we?

The dwarf that was set on fire at the party (photo from dwarfmyparty.com/)
The dwarf entertainer that was set on fire at the celebration (photo from dwarfmyparty.com/)
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I’ll give NRL a break for the moment and focus first on the code that Victorians take pride in believing is far more civilised that rugby league, Australian Rules.

No one seems to have told St Kilda’s Clinton Jones this however, who had to apologise for a Mad Monday celebration incident in which he set alight a dwarf entertainer (yes, you read right and no, it’s not actually an oxymoron).

Let’s take this in for a sec shall we? A football team in 2013, especially one so scandalized in recent years as St Kilda, hired a dwarf for the amusement of the players then thought it even more hilarious to set said person on fire. Side-splitting huh? Don’t you just have abs from laughing?

Really just how many levels of dumb are there? (Oh, actually, there is one perhaps even more outstanding in the stupidity stakes, namely the leaked photo of Canberra Raiders star Joel Monaghan simulating fellatio on a dog from 2010’s mad Monday celebrations).

You would think that someone on high should have banged the heads of St Kilda players together following this year’s debacle then booted at least Jones out of the league for good. But no, this is how AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou reacted to the dwarf burning incident – he laughed about it on The Footy Show. Cracked up with the giggles at the mention no less. The next day when the public went ballistic, he realised it was no joke.

“I was actually giggling in the beginning because I had been told by the producer [of the incident] during the break, before we went onto the next segment, and I thought they were having me on. I thought it was a joke,” Demetriou said of his TV laugh fest on radio.

A disgraced Joel Monaghan  then of the Raiders, after Mad Monday shenanigans hit the internet in 2009
A disgraced Joel Monaghan, then of the Raiders, after Mad Monday shenanigans hit the internet in 2009.
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“It also preceded the fact we were talking about all the other [discrediting] issues we’ve had in the last 12 months – with Adelaide, Melbourne, Essendon, ASADA, we’ve had the issue with Stephen Milne and Adam Goodes, so when this was brought up, I just thought it was incredulous to think that this could possibly be,” he said.

“Because I had also been told that, for some inexplicable reason, that St Kilda players were walking around with a lighter and lighting the back of each others shirts. It was inexcusable.”

In another interview he added, “I’ve been very public on my views about Mad Monday. I don’t like Mad Mondays, I think they are a thing of a bygone era. So, when I was told that ….. I just couldn’t believe that could be in this day and age. We spend our whole lives teaching children not to play with matches.”

It was a good attempt at a save by Demetriou but the ball was ultimately was dropped when a statement released by St Kilda merely claimed the incident as “inadvertent”. And as for the perpetrator Jones, he said, “As a playing group we were engaged in end of season activities which in hindsight [!!!!] were quite childish. I made an error of judgement in including [dwarf] Mr Johnston in the activity.”

Jones and his cohorts got off with donating $3000 to the Kids with Cancer Foundation Australia and a limp apology to victim Blake Johnston. Gee, that’s sure to teach other players a lesson about appropriate behaviour no doubt.

Really, is there any end to the sheer arrogance, stupidity and general abject failings of the AFL and NRL in getting the message about inappropriate behaviour in to the thick-heads of its players by now?

We’re not talking about Justin Bieber and his pubescent homies here doing what young boys with freedom, money, fame and rebellious streak get up to in when mum and dad aren’t watching. No, these are grown men. With families and legions of young boys looking up to them as role models if not gods. They are men that have been breathing long enough to know that the public takes a dislike to such antics, that it brings not only their families, the club, themselves and their fans into ill repute, but human beings as a whole.

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Andrew Demetriou
Andrew Demetriou

Which brings me back to the NRL whose players are better known for pulling off moronic stunts such as like the above, only wearing women’s’ clothing while at it.

Without going in to an endless rollcall of disgraces, let’s just focus first on what happened last year when the boy’s of the mighty NRL let their hair down with a few Mad Monday beers.

Canterbury Bulldogs players, who have never been named, verbally abused Channel 9 reporter Jayne Azzopardi during “celebrations”, using the excuse the sexist slurs were aimed at each other and not the female journalist.

“There was no one else there apart from two cameramen and myself. The windows were open, these phrases were yelled out the windows,” Azzopardi said after hearing the players’ lame excuse.

“We didn’t hear anything else other than this abuse. So it was clearly directed for us to hear it.… Initially the abuse was directed at our cameraman but when I arrived it became more vulgar and offensive and sexual, directed at me.

“And I just don’t think any woman should have to put up with that and I don’t think any man should think it’s okay to say those things.”

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Jayne Azzopardi
Jayne Azzopardi

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman John Grant deemed the incident as “serious” at the time however, a report later handed down by the ARLC revealed the only “punishment” was the club paying a $30,000 contribution to charity.

In revealing the offending players would not be named and instead were being dealt with by the club, Bulldogs chief executive Todd Greenberg did comically concede, “We are the first to admit that we should have handled things better.”

So, what happened this year during the NRL Mad Monday piss ups? What lessons were learnt by such catastrophic slights on the code in the years prior?

Well, the boys of the Penrith Panthers hired bikini-clad waitresses to serve drinks on their three-hour booze cruise and Parramatta Eels player Reni Maitua was spotted wobbling out on to the streets without a shirt at his team’s bash at the Royal Oak in North Parramatta.

Meanwhile, other clubs admitted that body guards accompanied their players on their play-ups, the unspoken truth being that the bouncers were there to protect the players from the public and not vice versa.

It is just as well Mauboy decided on singing Etta James classic ‘Something’s Got A Hold On Me’ as the NRL’s official anthem this year. Because that other song she’s known for, the remake of Salt N Pepper & En Vogue’s hit with the lyrics, “whatta man, whattta man, whatta mighty good man” sure aint appropriate for this lot.

Wendy Squires has been a journalist for more than 20 years, starting work at News Ltd as a cadet journalist before moving to New York where she worked, lived and wrote for several years. Upon her return she edited CLEO and Australian Style magazines as well as holding senior positions on Elle, Mode, Who Weekly, Madison, Woman’s Day and the Australian Women’s Weekly. She released her first novel, The Boys’ Club, based on her brief experience working as a network television publicist in 2010, and is working on another. In 2011 she moved to Melbourne where she now writes a regular opinion column for The Age and freelances for numerous publications.

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