Another rugby league “quick fix” back fires – and is Dane Tilse a scapegoat?

Is Dane Tilse a Scapegoat?

Monday I called on the Newcastle Knights to expel from the club players
identified as the worst culprits in the series of totally unacceptable
incidents in Bathurst on Sunday morning.

By Monday night,
one player, Dane Tilse, was thrown out for the season, and 11 others
fined what, in the context of their salary packages, are piddling

When Tilse was expelled, the Knights
administration clearly believed there would be no police intervention
or action. They also clearly believed that one expulsion and 11 fines
would be the end of the matter.

That is now clearly a misplaced belief!

The Rugby League Professionals Association has now questioned the way Tilse was drummed out of the game. And so it should.

do not know if Daniel Tilse is involved in the police inquiry now under
way. But the manner in which he has been ejected certainly given rise
to suspicion – and that may well be totally unfair to him and to his

But what we do know is that he readily, and
willingly, admitted to alcohol driven misbehaviour. But has been he
been turfed out because he had the courage, and perhaps decency, to own

The Players Association’s Tony Butterfield, (himself a
former Knights player), has rightly raised concerns at the haste with
which Tilse was dealt with. If it is true he was given just 45 minutes
to defend the allegations against him, then surely due and proper
process has not been followed?

While Butterfield’s
suggestion that Tilse has been “hung, drawn and quartered” might be
stretching it a bit too far, something tells me all is not right with
the way this has been handled. And more than one Crikey reader agrees
with me.

Tilse played just 3 games (all of the interchange
bench) with the Knights last year. Though he undoubtedly had a bright
future, he was hardly a star – and not in the same league as most of
the other players who have been fined. But he did attend the NRL’s much
vaunted “behaviour course” a month or so ago!

One has to really hope this is not a case of “last on, first off”, or………who will we miss the least!

Now there is a police inquiry into the most serious allegation………many questions, and doubts, may be answered sooner or later!

Tilse deserves full marks for owning up…..and being totally frank about
the impact of alcohol. He is paying a fairly heavy price………….but the
jury is still out on the question whether or not he has paid it fairly
or unfairly!

This whole sorry saga has, one suspects, got a long, long way to go!

This has not been rugby league’s finest week……but how many times have I said that in the last year?

Another rugby league “quick fix”

League now has more “codes of conduct” than all Australia’s police
forces combined – and I for one have absolutely no confidence they will
make any real difference in the way some players behave, or misbehave.

has been “rugby league official look foolish” week. And it was hardly a
surprise that yesterday the Chief Executive of the Australian Rugby
League, Geoff Carr, muscled his way to the head of the “look foolish”

Last night on television news bulletins Mr Carr was
proudly announcing yesterday’s ARL Meeting had approved yet another
“code of conduct” for the game, and, in doing so made this comment:

“Now we have a uniform code for the game hopefully it will help avoid situations like Bathurst.”

could not wait to read today’s papers to see the wisdom that flowed
from the ARL, wisdom that will surely result in no more Bathursts; no
more Coffs Harbours; no more early morning mobile messages to “Hannah”;
no more players behaving badly fullstop.

You can imagine my consternation when I read a summary of the ARL’s whiz bang code in today’s media, especially the Brisbane Courier-Mail, which put it on its front news pages rather than the sports pages.

you read the code, it should surely have been planted fairly and
squarely on the strip comics page, or, even better still, among the
deaths and funerals notices.

The code to end all codes, the
code to end all misbehaviour is transparently a code for junior rugby
league, where, increasingly, not only do players behave badly, but so
do mums and dads and “the lady next door”.

That’s fair enough, but why do rugby league officials continue to treat fans, and the media, like fools?

At least the SMH’s writers, Steve Mascord and Brad Walter, saw through this latest stunt writing:

a requirement that no one attending matches dispute the decision of a
referee or touch judge during or after the game indicates that the
document was intended primarily for juniors”.

That obviously being so, why did Geoff Carr talk it up in such a transparency ridiculous way?

in the ARL press statement – which can accessed on the NRL website
because the ARL does not have one – the impression is given that this
is a code for the whole game, and not just juniors. But why be so
obviously silly?

The answer is that the NRL, the ARL, and
more than a few club officials, are on the run at present, desperately
trying to explain and/or cover up the simple fact that none of the
“codes of conduct”, or behavioural strategies, cobbled together in the
last year or so are adequate.

Now here are a couple of excerpts from the ARL Code announced yesterday:

Never engage in disrespectful conduct of any sort including profanity,
sledging, obscene gestures, offensive remarks, trash talking, taunting
or other actions demeaning to other players, officials or supporters;
don’t use any illegal or unhealthy substances, shake hands with and
thank opposition players and officials after the game – win lose or

Parents/spectators: Respect the
referees decision; remember children participate in rugby league for
their own enjoyment, not yours; never arrive at a junior game under the
influence of liquor; never bring alcohol to a junior game; never
ridicule or scorn a player for making a mistake…

And on it goes.

if that is the code for NRL club games, then you can expect that when
you pay at the gate to enter the grounds you will be given a 12cm strip
of masking tape, which you will place over your mouth before taking
your seat, and not remove until you exit the ground at the end of the

The NRL, the ARL, and every club administrator must
end the spin, admit just how serious the player behaviour problems
facing the game are, and implement tough strategies – strategies that
begin with an admission that the abuse of alcohol, and the
glorification of alcohol, is at the heart of the problem.

game’s administrators have once again been caught totally flat footed
this week. When it comes to “crisis management” and “issues management”
the NRL and the ARL are on par with the Board and Management of James

The problem of parents behaving badly, and junior
players behaving badly, is a very real one….but to dress up a code of
conduct clearly directed at that problem as being something that will
prevent a repeat of Bathurst-type incidents is not only ridiculous, it
is totally irresponsible.

This has been another very bad
week for rugby league, and the performance of some of its highly paid
(and in some cases grossly overpaid) executives has only make matters

If you go to
you can have a look at the 8 page code of conduct for yourself. There
is hardly likely to be anything you will disagree with – motherhood
statements usually have that impact!

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off