Crimes and punishments – postcodes and privilege

Some months have passed since a couple of incidents in the northern NSW coastal town of Byron Bay have come and gone washed from the collective media memory by tinsel, trivia and tragedy.  The incidents unsurprisingly involved players from two football codes that are ‘poles’ apart as were the punishments. How they were handled serves as a reminder of how privilege and social class still influence perception in this country. The way both the media and the organisations responded shows quite clearly that we meter out our doses of media outrage based on expectation while still tugging our forelock to the lofties.

Greg Bird on his wedding day in early December must have felt like, to quote the squeaky vocal popsmith Brett Dennen, “Like a pirate in a pawn shop with a pocketful of jewels.”  Bird’s alleged crime was to squirt between two cars and to be spotted.

Bird has been a ‘grub’ by most definitions.  Students and teachers from his alma mater Rutherford High situated at the crumb-end of Maitland in the Hunter testify to his ‘charms’.  So at approximately 7.30pm on a balmy December evening, in the car park outside the Byron Bay Beach Hotel, after saying “I do” he then “Did do”. Poor judgement we would all accord.  However the crime of attempting to urgently relieve yourself discreetly in a public place could be levelled against most if not all of us.  Having had a surfeit of golden throat charmers who hasn’t desperately tried to find a safe spray haven away from the crowds?

“It’s put a dampener on our wedding weekend. I’m incredibly embarrassed and disappointed at myself,” Bird told reporters.  Well that’s generally what liquids do Birdie old son – they dampen.  As yet it is unproven that he actually bubbled onto a marked police vehicle but he was issued with an infringement notice on the following Monday.

The Clever Chronicle recorded another incident in the same street and the same town just a few weeks later that involved the Wallabies captain, Michael ‘Right Way’ Hooper.

The Australian Rugby Union says it has no plans to take disciplinary action against Wallabies captain Michael Hooper after he was involved in an incident that drew police attention in Byron Bay.  The 23-year-old was out early on Monday morning when one of his friends allegedly jumped on a parked car.  Police said the two men were then seen pushing over a road sign, which was later repositioned without damage. 

The ARU said the star breakaway, who is holidaying in Byron Bay, was “not involved in any serious misdemeanour”. “Michael has been open and transparent with the police and Australian Rugby Union,” a spokesman said. “We don’t expect any further action to be taken in relation to Michael’s involvement in the matter.”

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The only way is to the ‘right’ – Hooper’s handy w

Look I know most of us after a few bundies try and influence traffic flow by pushing over the odd set of traffic lights or stop signs.  So in no way am I trying to determine what incident is higher on the Richter Scale of Rudeness – it’s too late as the media, the police and associated organisations have decided for us.  Birdie is a grub and ‘Right Way’ is a chap having a lark with chums after a few ales.  After all ‘Right Way’ was schooled in values at St Piles X on the north shore of Sydney – he knows good from evil, right from wrong.

Regardless of whether a sign was repositioned the criminal act of vandalism as opposed to relieving oneself between cars seems to me quite similar in terms of stupidity.  However the punishments that were determined by each of the codes and clubs were clearly a million miles apart.  Bird was fined by his Titans Club $15,000 and stripped of the co-captaincy while Hooper remained a transparent likely lad escaping any punishment.

Today the media reports on Willie Sillie Mason’s alleged anti-social behaviour, apparently wrestling with his equally dopey brother in public in NZ at the Nautious Nines Tournament.

One fan said Mason was happily signing autographs and posing for photos throughout the event and one scuffle with his brother wasn’t showing the whole picture. Another said Mason was polite and though he may have been helped out of the venue by police, the only reason was that he was getting hounded by excited fans. Mason told the Daily Telegraph that it was after conducting a promotional engagement at the tournament that he engaged in the scuffle with his brother.  “I did have a wrestle with my brother Les when I was leaving Eden Park, but that was just a brotherly wrestle and there was nothing in it,” Mason said.

The Byron incidents make me wonder how Mason’s bro-wrestle will be treated.  Will it be seen as an “open and transparent” incident of good humoured hi-jinx from two spirited boofheads or will the more likely moral tumbrel rumble for heads to roll and the feckless fool to be summarily punished?  Hopefully so for then we can all sleep soundly knowing that the crime fits the punishment.

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Getting on the wrong side of the Maules is definitely right

In these slippery times when a galaxy of inked fools parade like very special tools in social media, texting and bubbling their unmerry way into notoriety there are occasional great acts from elite players that restore one’s faith in what is possible.

David Pocock, openside flanker with the Brumbies and Wallies was caught exercising near, well actually on, a monster truck at the Maules Creek mine on the weekend.

Now every bum-heavy couch dweller knows that the Wallies run out of gumption and go in the last quarter of every match they have played this century. Whether it’s too many soft pillows and chardonnay showers I don’t know.  But here is young ‘Poco’, a player who is working long and hard to build his level of fitness to a higher level.  By climbing up onto a monster truck and lifting heavy chains to secure himself to same monster, ‘Poco’ has demonstrated that he is a man willing to go the extra yard.  But what happens? He gets a burn notice from the pin-striped pinocchios.

As the Clever Chronicle reported “My parents were always clear with my brothers and I when we were growing up that you have to have the courage of your convictions and that when you commit to something you must fully commit. That’s why, this weekend I travelled to the Leard Blockade,” Pocock said.

He wanted to raise awareness about the plight of the community of farmers and local Gamilaroi people in the Leard Forest region, whose land and sacred sites he said the Maules Creek mine threatened to destroy. 

The 26-year-old was one of nine people arrested at the protest and charged with offences including entering enclosed land without a lawful excuse.

The ARU Toady Unit issued the following press release shortly after.  They were obviously running out of ink or ideas at the time.

“The Australian Rugby Union has issued a formal written warning to David Pocock following his arrest yesterday. While we appreciate David has personal views on a range of matters, we’ve made it clear that we expect his priority to be ensuring he can fulfil his role as a high-performance athlete. The matter is now subject to legal proceedings and we will now let the legal process take its course.”

What a cart load of sanctimonious tosh!  At a time when a player texts a lewd, humiliating photo to a female employee of the ARU and then gets to play weeks later we get this piece of moral turpitude.  Look we all understand about breaking the ‘law’ so don’t use that flimsy given.  Here we are talking about enriching and newly defining the character of a sport that allows participants to express their personal view of the world without prejudice or fear.  In the end Australian Rugby, by trotting out meek lines of not bringing the game into disrepute, player responsibility to the code and other toad-like simpers is simply reversing the game into irrelevance for most thinking and passionate people.

And why should we be proud of this bloke?  Well quite simply he has shown great  courage in risking his playing future and possibly ‘devaluing’ his long term corporate ‘worth’ to do what he considers is right.  In a world that recognised players moral worth rather than their ability to simply conform to convenient and controlling codes of player behaviour then ‘Poco’ would be lauded rather than warned.

To the ARU, once gain you have shown a lack of courage, insight and imagination.

To David Pocock, well done fella, you have all of the above in spades.

We need a ‘Chilla’ not a character killer

I read Clothhead Fitzsimon’s article in the Clever Chronicle this week with interest.  It went beyond his normal fare of good journalism, reheated jokes and sideswipes.  A solid writer, amusing after chicken dinner speaker, who slopes in the coffee shops of Mossman crafting columns moated by his laptop and a sling of surl.  This weeks spray was a very effective, well-considered iron fist in glove piece on the very scrubbed and increasingly pinker Alan ‘Bloat’ Jones.  It appears that Bloat has been smacking his thick pursed lips at the thought of being a very important part of the new Wallies.  Like an autograph hunter who is buoyed by the chase of just another signature, Jones still believes he is of the time rather than out of it.

Some credit Jones as being the mastermind behind the Grand Slam win in the early eighties.  I don’t.  He simply had the horse power.  Any bozo with a vocabulary of twenty words and a lettuce whip could have shoved this talented bunch of boofs across the line.  What Bloat is very good at is taking the gold and leaving the tailings. He is great at the black board of history where he arduously scrubs out any other contributors as he underscores and bolds his “struggle street’ credentials.

Of course, Bloat is loved by those inside the tent, however as many have learned if you don’t toady to the Bloat then your stay in the tent is terminated.  Of course this is an extension of the ‘pick and stick’ philosophy that has spawned a rotating bunch of men who come under the spell of a very, very clever man.  Of course the price you pay for being part of this hubris hurdy-gurdy is that you apparently get the flick if you don’t stick.

FitzSimons article mentions Bloat’s criticisms of John Eales.  In a spurn on Triple M, Bloat allegedly called Eales an “overrated player” and admonished him for having both a media commentator role with Schlock Sports and being an ARU director.  Why so Mr Bloat?  Why the need?  Well it is interesting that John Eales was called to give evidence to support John Coates in a defamation case against Bloat some years ago.  I’m not sure whether this may or may not have had any influence on Bloat’s attack on Eales.  However given his ‘p&s’ philosophy one suspects that it could have influenced his words just a wee bit. The ABC reported back then:

A court hearing has begun in Sydney to hear defence arguments and decide damages in a defamation action brought by Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates against radio broadcaster Alan Jones.

Mr Jones commented on an incident in the women’s eight rowing finals at the Athens Olympics, in which one of the crew, Sally Robbins, stopped competing.

The jury found Mr Jones implied that Mr Coates had ordered a cover-up and bullied Robbins’s crew into saying what he wanted them to and that he was incompetent in the way he handled the matter.

A Supreme Court jury has previously found Mr Jones defamed Mr Coates during three broadcasts on 2GB radio in December 2004.

Mr Coates’ lawyer has told the Supreme Court that Mr Jones repeated the allegations, despite being told by former Wallabies captain and women’s rowing team mentor John Eales that they were not true.

FitzSimons also writes in the ‘Clever’ about Jones’s possible ambition, “one of your former charges called me on Wednesday and said it seemed as if you were going to get the Wallabies manager’s role.” Oh dear, how could that be true – you have so, so much on your plate Mr Bloat?  It is interesting to read the wonderful Mark Ella’s comments on the Tour Manager in 1984, Charles ‘Chilla’ Wilson.  Of this former Wallaby captain, Ella said:

“I couldn’t think of a better manager. I played for Australia for six years. Thank God I had Chilla Wilson for three of them. With Jonesy up there dominating everything, Chilla was the perfect foil. He was quiet, unobtrusive and didn’t make a lot of noise.”

So should Jones, the highly successful media man be brought back?  Oh don’t, please don’t bring him back or I’ll be forced onto the Drambuie Drip ..again.  We don’t need this dated windfarmer’s view of Wally World anymore.  We need more ‘chilla’ rather than killer and we need to be fairer and firmer with errant players.  Mr Bloat seems incapable of either.

Checks and the Flaming Edgar…

I knew Michael Cheika was cut from a different cloth than the normal Rah Rah Royal Blue.  My heart soared when he bounded up onto the podium after the Waratahs’ win wearing beautiful bone slip-ons, baggie trakkies and a winter coat.  It was a strong statement. It was Gold Coast meets Lazy Bones.  It said it’s not what I look like, it’s what I do.

‘Checks’ obviously does not believe in the corporate camouflage stuff unlike some within the rugby hierarchy.  You know the stuff – the herringbone harrys and the busted brat boating hoes that seep of privilege without performance. These winter wonder skids that self-proclaim and herd together in a congratulatory conga line whenever the team comes out to play.  As these chinless charlies enter into never-ending spiral of pretentious conceit our man “Checks’ has no need to pretend.

This fella is not a one-trick pony.  Due to his language skills (French/Italian) he landed a job with Cullottes Dinnigan and later started his own business called ‘Live Fashion’. Yeah right.  I mean if anyone had a chance to put on the Armani it was Checks.  But he didn’t.

Born to Lebanese parents between Redfern and Coogee he cut his teeth playing for NSW and had coaching stints in France and Italy.  He is considered a thoughtful coach – a man of passion who can sometime border on the highly emotional without the Bundy drip. He is up now for Coach of the ‘Wallies’ and no doubt will head off on Friday.  He will not only make a fist of it but he will put his whole, thoughtful and honest body to the wheel.  However there is a lot of cleaning to do.

Bill ‘The Pill’ Pulver spoke of the “core values of our game” on Saturday night after the resignation of Ewen McKenzie. Oh please spare me the syrup.  I wrote some time ago that Ewie didn’t seem to be the man for the job. However I take no pleasure in his demise as I believe he has been treated shabbily.

While ‘The Pill’ blamed the media for all of the mess there is something very wrong here within ARU world. There is a ‘flaming edgar’ simmering at the door of the ARU.  The Pill and others have sat on their hands for far too long and have refused to put it out.

There are no ‘core’ values in the game if players can completely dictate the terms of engagement.  The petulant performance of Hooper and others within the team who blindly supported the disgraceful acts of text treachery by Beale need to be sent packing.  I don’t give a flying fruit bat about who may have or has not been converting behind the sheds nor do I care for those allegedly talented dicks who spoil then demand preferential treatment by the panderers.

Beale, Hooper and anyone else who cares to can toad-off overseas and play for any team that has the ego and cash capacity to contain them. These ego-enlarged players have lost the right to play for our country because they considered themselves to be more important than the team.

Good luck Checks and don’t lose the ‘bone beauties’ fella.