If anyone has doubts that high profile
sportspeople can pay a very high price for their profile then this week’s
events surrounding the Wests Tigers’ Benji Marshall, must surely put them to
rest.

Benji Marshall is universally regarded as
one of rugby’s rising stars. His wholesome public image matches his
extraordinary football skills, at the age of just 21. Yet this week he has been in the headlines,
and not because of the broken cheekbone he suffered in the opening round of
fixtures last weekend.

Benji Marshall has been in Coffs Harbour watching his brother
play in a touch football competition. On Monday night he and a group of friends
were drinking at a Coffs Harbour hotel, and there is
nothing untoward about that, when he was the victim of an entirely unprovoked
physical attack by
a drinker who undoubtedly knew who he was. He did not retaliate –
and nor did his friends.

Despite that, the incident has made the
Sydney and Brisbane sporting headlines – print, radio and television – for the
last two days. Despite the fact that there is no evidence
to suggest that Marshall behaved improperly, there will be the cynics saying he must have
been “as full as a state school hat rack”, and the like.

In such circumstances, high profile sportspeople are deserving of our support, and in this case, the fact that he did not
retaliate in any form speaks volumes for Marshall’s
character. Sadly, it also proves that the high public profile
football players enjoy thanks to saturation media coverage, public
endorsements, appearances, etc, means they no longer have private lives.

The NRL has made genuine efforts to educate
players on how to handle such situations. Increasingly clubs are doing so as
well. But what has one of the game’s highest profile player managers offered as
a solution?

According to Steve Gillis, players need to
stay at their “local” pubs rather than “unchartered waters”. Is it any wonder that I regard player
managers as over-paid, over-rated impositions on the game of rugby league?

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW