The web of deceit: From Tweet to Twit

Social networking, love it or loathe it, is king.

This weekend I came across an image of a player in a compromising position, which was being shared between fellow Rugby League players.

This distasteful and private image was something that shouldn’t be posted in the public arena. But what disturbed me most was the fact it was a player that had specifically opened an account just so they could post this image.

Such behaviour and lack of comrade between fellow sportsmen left me not only disappointed but perplexed that teammates would sell their fellow player down the river in such a way with little disregard to the consequence.

A consequence that became a reality for Cronulla Shark ‘bad boy’ Todd Carney this weekend, who was sacked by his club after another prank went viral and rocked the Rugby League world.

Carney is a player that on his day is world class. Unfortunately, though, he appears to have thrown away his last chance. This incident a sobering reminder of a career ruined by alcohol fuelled hijinks.

The Sharks have been resolute in the fact they have made the right decision in cutting the NSW-born star loose, after an image of him apparently urinating into his own mouth was shared on social networking sites.

Some say Carney is finished, that he should never lace up his boots again. Others say he has been hard done to, but personally I believe the question is much more complex and one that deserves greater attention.

This recent misdemeanor is one of many shameful situations captured on a camera phone in front of an audience of teammates, yet another ‘Mad Monday’ prank gone wrong. Although the NRL holds the trump cards when it comes to the League hall of shame, Super League has had more than its fair share of headlines.

Josh Charnley, George Burgess, and Danny Kirmond have all been caught sending sexually explicit images, which instead of being kept between the sender and recipient was tweeted for the world to see. Not that it harmed any of the trio’s career, their pride maybe but nothing like the punishment and humiliating penalty dished out to that of current Warrington flyer Joel Monaghan, who was sacked by Canberra Raiders in 2011, left to pick up the pieces of his career and reputation after teammates distributed an unsuitable picture of him.

Talking to the Aussie press at the time Monaghan said: “It was my stupid prank. It was me. It was my idea. I set the photo up. It wasn’t them [teammates] that did it, it was me. It wasn’t sent out, it wasn’t taken to hurt me’.

Luckily for Monaghan he was able to pull through his short-lived fall from grace and is now enjoying his footy in the UK away from the goldfish bowl of the NRL.

Since the boom in social media, and with it the newly acquired player accessibility, the level of scrutiny aimed at our men has become intangible and sadly often with a tragic outcome.

Upon releasing the statement confirming the sacking of Carney, Cronulla said: “The club and the NRL will be committed to working with Todd, his family and his management in implementing appropriate counselling and support, with the start of this process to begin tonight.”

I fully understand and support the stance that a player is a role model, and their behaviour should not bring themselves or the club they represent into disrepute, but is sacking a player the answer?

Is it not a short-term solution in a world where our insatiable desire to have an insight into the lives of our sporting idols has surpassed the desire to protect our game?

With the microscope focused firmly on the behaviour of young men off the field rather than on it, it is a disturbing fact that more and more players are being treated for depressive illness. Sean Long and Rene Maitua are two of the toughest of individuals but have both readily admitted to being plagued with suicidal thoughts and attempts.

As a customer of a club we pay good money into the coffers and we shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. Is there a fundamental lack of guidance and support from Rugby League executives? Is it the responsibility of the Rugby League community to support a player when such incidents are exposed? Should the governing body be working harder to educate clubs on the perils of alcohol induced bonding sessions? Is it merely boys being boys when they send intimate images? Or am I making too many excuses for players who are today in a far privileged position both socially and financially than our heroes of yesteryear? Is the bottom line that of common sense and responsibility, a pact between a player and his teammates?

Rest assured Carney won’t be the last – he most certainly wasn’t the first – but it is now time for every player to look themselves in the mirror and ask: What is more important, your career and reputation of your club, or a drunken moment of ‘brotherly banter? Now that IS something to Tweet about.

You can follow me on twitter, my official League only account @LWSRUGBYLEAGUE

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