Footy fever spreads. The page-one pictures I understand — it is grand final eve in Melbourne after all and they are down to four teams in the northern state’s rugby league comp. But editorials about football in the Melbourne Herald Sun and the Sydney Daily Telegraph? Not that the theme of both will come as a surprise to anyone who has followed either code during the season. The behaviour of the boys has inspired both editorial writers.

In Melbourne the Hun sternly tells Brendan Fevola that “You deserve to be dumped by the Carlton Football Club for years of drunken behaviour that even for you went over the top at the Brownlow Medal night at Crown.” At the Terror they passed by commenting on the story of the manager of a junior league team suspended for five years and one player banned for 15 years over the vicious grand-final brawl in Sydney’s west to concentrate on the way that league has found God. Out at Parramatta Leagues Club, a new chief executive has welcomed the pastors from the Hillsong church in to the fold and the club’s star fullback Jarryd Hayne is following the Christian path. Which has prompted this editorial:

There is no mention of eels in the Bible — the closest similar term, possibly a little worrying for Parramatta fans, is Beelzebub — but that should be of little concern to Parra fullback Jarryd Hayne, who along with several teammates is carrying his faith through the NRL finals.

Many in the tough world of rugby league may be inclined to mock Hayne and his fellow faithful but it is worth considering how much possible benefit to the game may result from their beliefs.

For a start, those following a religious calling are usually less inclined to get into the sort of controversies that have diminished league in recent seasons.

This can only be a very good thing. Look at the example set by the Bulldogs’ Hazem El Masri, who might just be the most admired man in rugby league. In large part this is due to, not despite of, his deeply-held religious convictions.

Also, it is also worth appreciating that new audiences may be brought to the game by those who share an enthusiasm for various religious beliefs. The potential size of that audience is large and growing.

Beyond league, this can only help build bridges in wider society. The NRL, through the example of its players, is now able to take a stand against bigotry. Good on them.

A most peculiar thing. By 11.30 this morning it was as if the old Sydney Sun had arisen from the dead. The Sydney Morning Herald website was transformed from a serious enough replica of that paper’s printed Friday edition into a real shock-horror-probe-bid tabloid. In the top, headlines half of the site there were none of the stories that featured in the version on screens at 8am when I went off for my morning nap having filed Crikey’s breakfast media wrap.

Being nice to New Zealand. Kevin Rudd had his mate, Bill Clinton, to say nice words about him. Now New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is claiming the current US President as his new best friend. In rather breathless fashion this morning the New Zealand Herald tells the story.

Just like the child rushing home from school to say “Mummy, mummy, that lovely new boy spoke to me twice today.” World leaders surely do love standing in a little Barack Obama reflected glory.

The real casualties of war. They have been holding a conference at the war Memorial in Canberra this week on the treatment of soldiers coming home from wars and our local ABC has featured interviews with some of the participants. Some really heart-wrenching stories of the ways that suffering so often continues for years after the battlefield is left behind. But nothing so starkly shocking as the report in The Guardian this morning of how in the United Kingdom the number of former servicemen in prison or on probation or parole is now more than double the total British deployment in Afghanistan.

The study by the probation officers’ union Napo uncovers the horrid hidden cost of recent conflicts. The Guardian reports:

The snapshot survey of 90 probation case histories of convicted veterans shows a majority with chronic alcohol or drug problems and nearly half suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression as a result of their wartime experiences on active service.

Those involved had served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. They are most likely to have been convicted of a violent offence, particularly domestic violence.

The study provides the strongest evidence yet of a direct link between the mental health of those returning from combat zones, chronic alcohol and drug abuse and domestic violence.

In many cases the symptoms of depression or stress did not become apparent for many years and included persistent flashbacks and nightmares.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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