Time to clean up our act
By GREG WHITE
GROUP 2 has finally descended to a level where the law of the jungle has replaced the rule of law and the mayhem involving the Warriors and the Sharks at Port Macquarie on July 3 is just the nasty tip of what is a large and unsavoury iceberg.
It pains me to say this, and there will be howls of derision at such a strong statement, but I believe it's true.
Just consider some of the nastiness that's left a vile smell over this year's competition.
Allegations of referees taking their grievances to a pugilistic level. Claims, later proven of coaches unleashing verbal tirades at referees at the slightest provocation.
Referees admitting privately to feeling intimidated by crowd and player behaviour. Vicious brawls in Under 18 games that have become the rule instead of the exception.
Last week, further claims of a waterbottle being thrown at a ref during a junior league match, a repeat of a similar incident earlier this year.
This time, it wasn't even felt worthy of report.
Every week there seems to be a squabble over something, whether it's the performance (or lack of it) by referees, low life attacks made during games, the inaction by Group officials, the petty nitpicking by club officials or some other such example of the whole idea of self-discipline going to hell in a handbasket.
But it was what emerged from the hearing involving Macksville player Gary Jarrett, cited by the Coffs Harbour club following a match played at Allan Gillett Oval on July 2, that has forced me to draw my personal line in the sand.
I am not writing of the not guilty verdict that continues to inflame emotions.
It is the evidence presented during the hearing, both verbally by witnesses and by statutory declarations, and the admissions freely made by the parties involved that has my blood boiling.
Normally, evidence presented in these cases is subjudice.
But, on this occasion, to hell with protocol.
Strong allegations were made of racial vilification that are not just against the ideals of rugby league but against the laws of the Commonwealth.
Did one player really tell another that he would be 'leaving the ground in an ambulance' or was this just made up for dubious motives?
From what I've been told, the evidence presented at this hearing proves that honourable conduct on the fields of Group 2 battle has been thrown out the window and from here on in, it's a lucky dip if players who flaunt convention are to be held accountable for their words and actions.
The management of Group 2 has every justification to re-open this hearing and investigating the evidence presented, to ascertain if the ubiquitous charge of 'bringing the game into disrepute' can be levelled.
An incident during the game between Coffs and Macleay last Sunday, illustrates how close we are to the edge of anarchy.
When a young Comet was roughed up by an opponent, his father was seen to be moving quickly in the direction of the playing field.
The swift intervention by club president Ian Trengove in steering the parent in the opposite direction may have averted a bad scene.
It certainly put a shiver up the spine of those who saw what happened.
After all, this was Coffs Harbour we're talking about.
Not the Warriors, but the elements that build towards a crisis are no different between clubs.
Year after frustrating year, I've watched us come to this present level.
All those suspended sentences once handed out in the judiciary for the worst examples of thuggery are coming to fruition.
The point blank refusal to obtain legal guidance in matters of discipline.
The necessity of Andy Gray and Wade Newton to take civil action when they felt the system had let them down, and we know both actions were successful.
The same old faces who appear annually on committees and then do nothing in the face of mounting evidence of woeful conduct.
The reluctance of the ruling body to interfere when it's not only their duty, but their responsibility, to do so.
The constant griping by club officials at the way things are, the same people who don't stand animated candidates for election at the AGM or have the gumption to pick up a telephone to sort out problems with brother officials or hold their own private meetings to organise a voting ticket in advance.
Writing letters is useless.
Leaving all those grievances for discussion at an annual meeting is just another method of applying futility to delay the inevitable.
Wasn't it master coach and philosopher Jack Gibson who said something along these lines?
"Rugby league is a wonderful game.
"It has to be to survive the poor way in which it is run."
Or words to that effect.
The way we play quality football in Group 2 has made us a showpiece of the game.
The toughness, the flair, the friendships and harmony built between black and white Australians that is the envy of every other area.
The sheer joy and exhilaration provided by so many wonderful men of all sorts of social and cultural backgrounds can't be allowed to be devalued by the crap that has been building.
Beneath the gloss, behind the facade, there is much that is rotten.
For pity's sake, end it now, before we have an awful incident that shames us all.