Australian Rugby League coach Wayne Bennett has departed the
representative coaching scene with a very clear message for players and
administrators alike, but one has to wonder if anyone is listening.

In a couple of interviews with journalists he regularly talks to (The SMH’s
Roy Masters and the ABC’s Gerry Collins), Bennett has made it very clear
that the game has yet to properly address its greatest challenge –
excessive drinking and partying by players.

As he rightly pointed out, every bad headline-grabber about
off-the-field “behaviour” in the last three years has involved booze.

And it is now apparent some players – and perhaps even some officials –
on the recent Kangaroos Tour resented his insistence that players not
be out till dawn, and that drinking be strictly controlled. A tough
line maybe, but surely its about time coaches and officials stand up
and be counted on this blot on the game, as well as on sport and
society generally.

The ARL’s “see nothing, hear nothing, know even less” approach has
again been exposed with the confirmation that the international player
of the year, Anthony Minichiello, had an incident with the window of a
McDonald’s in Paris during the recent tour. The ARL says it was an
“accident”, but Minichiello will do some “rugby league community
service” in any event!

If it was an accident, why the “community service”?

Wayne Bennett, more than most, has reason to be concerned about the
impact of excessive drinking on sports people. His father was an
alcoholic, and that is why he is a teetotaller. He is probably gone
mostly because of poor on-field results, but his stand on the code’s
party culture should not be ignored.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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