If a week is a long time in politics, then 24 hours must be a life
time, and a nightmare, for the Newcastle Knights Rugby League Club.

On Sunday afternoon, the Club CEO, Ken Conway, described the reported
incident (it is now a series of incidents) as “of a relatively minor nature”.

One could almost see the very large broom being taken out of the
closet, and the carpet being lifted!

But that was never going to work once the story hit the headlines…and
the Charles Sturt University students started talking to the media! And nor
should it work…will club officials never learn?

So we now have one player banned for the season, and “fines” totalling
$50,000 handed out to 11 others. Given the salaries rugby league players earn
(or receive) – and given the punishment handed out to the Dragons Mark Gasnier
last year – the penalties hardly seem to be heavy.

And let us hope that Dane Tilse is not being made the “scapegoat” for
more experienced, and more needed, players…and the list of those fined reads
like a “who’s who” of the Knights, including the Acting Captain, Kurt Gidley.

Only time will tell. Especially if the Police end up launching a
criminal prosecution.

These fines appear to be for breaching the Club’s Code of Conduct…in
that the players breached a 3am, yes 3am, curfew!

It appears that no less than 12 players left the team’s motel, and some
went to the nearby University, while others, appallingly, banged on the door of
a private home occupied by female students, demanding “entry”.

But what are the Knights going to do about the Team Managers and
Supervisors? When you have 12 players breaking a curfew surely someone in
authority knew…or knew but did not want to know!

And now the NRL has fined the club 100 grand.

But no one is yet prepared to own up to the real problem facing the
Knights. And far too many sporting clubs, and players (and not just rugby
league clubs and players) won’t own up to the problem either!

And the real problem is alcohol!

What is the point of a 3 am curfew? Conservatively, that gives players
at least 5 hours to get full of soup after they finish the game. And that’s
enough – given the strength of the drinks today – to get as full as a state
school hat rack!

The NRL, and its Clubs, dance around the excessive consumption of
alcohol issue facing the game. Why?

Is it because many of the clubs are dependent on the support of their
licensed clubs, or is it because beer and spirit companies continue to be
sponsors of the game, and clubs?

Or is it because the NRL, and Officials, continue to have their heads
in the clouds…and that’s the more likely answer.

When the NRL got around to addressing the issue of the attitude of
players towards women, it put the cart before the horse. The whole initial
focus should have been on the excessive consumption of alcohol crisis facing
rugby league, other sports, and the community generally.

Every incident, yes every incident, involving rugby league players
behaving badly has resulted from too much alcohol, and the inability of players
to be responsible in their drinking behaviour.

The NRL needs to get its act together on this issue. It should put
aside its campaigns about how to deal with women etc, and get its focus on the real
problem – and do so regardless of the concerns of sponsors, or licensed clubs.

And it should tell clubs that 3am curfews are utterly useless.

The NRL cannot be blamed for the dreadful publicity the game has again received
at the start of a season. But it needs to insist that every club put in place
proper alcohol use programs – and insist that players who can’t manage alcohol
consumption either give it up, or give up the game (and preferably the latter).

The fans, and especially the kids who love their footy demand and
deserve nothing less!