Attacking Gary Hetherington Is Easy, But Lets Listen To His Message For A Moment…

Cynical. I can’t help it!

When I read that Leeds Rhinos boss Gary Hetherington urged the RFL and its clubs to block Todd Carney’s move to the Catalan Dragons on the grounds that it damaged the reputation of the game, I knew right then and there that I should go through all of the players that have pulled on a Rhinos jersey over the years and list all of their indiscretions.

It was easy. Like shooting fish in a barrel! I couldn’t reign down the fire and brimstone in a classic League Freak manner and eviscerate Hetheringtons complaint.

What if he has a point though?

I’ve been critical for years of the way Super League has become a dumping ground for all of the games garbage. Old, busted, and can’t get a job anywhere else? Head to Super League and earn a professional salary while putting in the effort of a part timer!

When Joel Monaghan received fellatio from a dog, his junk still smelled like Schmackos and he was being linked to a move to Super League. Sure enough, that is where he ended up, and for the Wolves of all clubs! They just happened to have the salary cap space available you see…

This time around the Catalan Dragons didn’t need a financial wiz to fit Carney under the cap. They have gone all in with a long term deal that will all but likely see Carney finish his career in Super League.

If he turns up looking to prove that he still has what it takes, Todd Carney will be the best player in Super League by such a long way that it won’t even seem fair. At his best, right now, Todd Carney would be hard to leave out of a NSW State Of Origin team. When he is out of form, as he was this season, Carney is a decent player who will show flashes of brilliance but who will disappoint. That still makes him the best player in Super League.

When does Super League draw a line in the sand though? When do club owners decide that they will not take on board players with off field issues?

I have no issue at all with Todd Carney playing for the Catalan Dragons. I think getting away from Sydney will be great for him, I think the confidence the Dragons have shown in him will possibly make him focus more on football and less on other things, I think this really could help turn his career and his life around. We will find out over the next few years if that is that case. So this is not an attack on Todd Carney.

I just think that this is a good time to have this question tossed up for Super League supporters to discuss. We all follow clubs with players that have off field issues at them. Some clubs have a reputation for buying players who have all sorts of problems off the field and just putting up with it because it gets them the results they want on the field. When does that change? When does that stop all together?

Super League clubs now have a little bit of money to spend thanks to a renegotiated broadcasting deal. It is not a lot, but its enough to make a few things happen. Unfortunately we are seeing a lot of clubs use that extra money on overseas players, buying fringe NRL first graders rather than using it to develop British youngsters and actually rebuild their clubs from the ground up.

If Super League can get back on its feet, if it can start to grow once again, and if Rugby League in Europe can get a bit of a buzz about it once more, when does the sport decide to take a moral stand on the behaviour of players?

Sometimes with these issues you can’t wait. There is never a convenient moment to make these tough decisions. Was this the moment to make a decision that Super League would no longer be the southern hemispheres dumping ground for problem players? Its a hard judgement to make.

In the same way the NRL has looked to take a stand, eventually the RFL will have to do the same thing. For players that have off field issues it is a bit of a free-for-all right now. There is very little you can do in Super League that gets you de-registered and not playing for another club the following season.

Hetherington’s motivation for his complain is up for debate, but the message needs to be discussed. When does the Rugby Football League draw a line in the sand when it comes to off field issues, and what will the ramifications be for the game when both imports and home grown talent are shown the door because of off field behaviour that is no longer tolerated by supporters of the game.

It is an interesting question, and one that deserves more than just a quick, reactionary response.

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