Yesterday should have been a good day for rugby league –
with the selection of Eric Grothe to follow his
distinguished father wearing the green and gold. But, yet again, a drunken disgraceful incident involving
another young player rained on rugby league’s parade.

The choice of Grothe to
replace Andrew Johns in the Kangaroos squad represented
triumph over adversity. In 2000, he stood down from the NSW Blues squad and
ended up spending a year or so playing more second grade than first grade at
different clubs. But, to his credit, he “got his act together,” returned
to the Eels and played a major role in the club’s success in
2005.

So he has earned his green and gold jersey more than
most, having overcome setback, uncertainty and the pressures that inevitably
confront a player thrust into the limelight at the age of 19 or
20. He’s the son of Eric Grothe Snr, who had a long and distinguished career with
the Eels, the Blues and the Kangaroos (the seventh father-son test player
combination in the history of rugby league in Australia).

But what a pity his triumph had to be shared
with the news that the Bulldogs (who else?) have fined player Corey Hughes
$10,000 for what was apparently an ugly incident after the Kembla Grange races
last Saturday. If media reports are correct, then Hughes was provoked
by one of those boofheads in society who seem to relish abusing and provoking high
profile sports stars in public – especially when they are full of
grog.

And while that alone can’t excuse the somewhat violent
response from Hughes, it surely demands that the NRL re-visit its
program to “educate” players on how to avoid being provoked. Difficult maybe, but unavoidable.

And what a pity this unsavoury incident made the
headlines at the same time it was revealed that the tri-nations series has been a ratings
winner for Channel Nine. Last Friday night’s two-and-a-half hour delayed telecast
of the Kangaroos vs Kiwis match won its timeslot in both Sydney and
Brisbane.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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