The news that the Waratahs winger, Wendell Sailor,
has been sent home from South Africa in disgrace will come as no surprise to
rugby league followers – especially in Brisbane. The Sailor story is yet another story of sport
officialdom – and the law courts – giving a player far too many second chances
and imposing weak and ineffectual penalties for one of the worst serial
offenders of them all.
By the time he left rugby league and the Brisbane
Broncos to join the Queensland Reds, his image in the Brisbane community was seriously tarnished. The Broncos
went through the motions trying to keep him, but in truth the club, and rugby
league generally, tried much harder to keep Lote Tuqiri who switched codes with
His use by date in rugby league had just about
arrived, and the number of off-field incidents – some quite serious – had
sorely tested the tolerance of fans, though not necessarily of his coach, Wayne
Bennett, who extended extraordinary tolerance to Sailor during his Broncos
For every off field incident that made the media,
there may have been half a dozen that never did. Towards the end, even the courts showed signs of
running out of patience with him. His behaviour improved – at least for a while
– when a Magistrate finally put him on notice.
Rugby union can hardly complain. It knew
exactly what it was getting when it signed up Sailor. The hype surrounding his code switch boosted union
crowds – for about three weeks.
Just as rugby league treated him with ridiculous
leniency, so did rugby union when he was out at 4am and involved in a night club incident that
resulted in Matt Henjak being sent home. For that he was given a two-test
suspended sentence, which amounts to nothing. Now the ARU/NSWRU is to review the one match
suspension and fine Sailor received for the latest off field incident.
I just hope the review does not result in his
contract being torn up. Sadly, there is more than one NRL club that would be
silly enough, or desperate enough, to sign him up. Wendell Sailor is a burden rugby league simply does