Lay off and let the boys have a slap
I'M GOING to do something I'm usually pretty uncomfortable doing.
I'm going to defend the Brisbane Broncos.
I love nothing more than seeing them struggle.
As a New South Welshman and long-suffering Bulldogs fan, seeing the ponies getting thrashed the other day was one of the best things I've seen in a long time.
But I reckon it's a step too far to pile on a handful of them who decided to go and have a slap on the pokies the night before their brief finals appearance.
I'm still trying to work out what they did wrong.
They didn't break any team protocols.
They weren't on the drink.
They didn't hurt anyone.
All they did was feed a few notes through the pokies and try their luck.
Personally, I think the only thing they did wrong was not enjoy a couple of beers to settle the pre-game nerves.
They played like they were drunk anyway, so it would've hardly mattered.
When you put it in context against the what feels like millions of other scandals that struck the NRL this year, this barely rates a mention.
There's no allegation of sexual misconduct, of anything even bordering on criminal behaviour.
It was just a bunch of grown men choosing to spend some of their money, as they see fit.
For years I and many others have lamented the loss of characters in the game, and what seems to be a loss of touch with reality by the players.
Isn't this what we want from our footy stars?
More interaction with the real world?
I could think of nothing better than sinking a few at the local and spotting a few of your favourite footy players coming for a few quiet cold ones more than 15 hours before their game, and having a beer and a chat with them and wishing them well.
Isn't that what made the game so great in decades past?
The players were accessible, they were real, they were humans.
I understand it's a professional industry now, not just a sport, and preparation has become extremely scientific.
But how much do we want to sanitise our stars?
Remember these blokes aren't exactly allowed to sit around the hotel room and fire up the sports betting apps and have a crack like most average punters can in the comfort of their lounge room.
They can't exactly pop the footy on and have a punt.
So a few dollars on the pokies is probably as close as they can get to gambling.
At $500,000 a year and more, they probably aren't going to notice it either, if they slipped a few pineapples in.
For all we know they were just trying to boost the coffers for Mad Monday.
If they'd won on Sunday, it's a non-story.
If they were average Joe, amateur sportspeople, no one bats an eyelid.
So what do we want more?
Do we want footballers who are able to interact safely and freely with the public, and in doing so limit their chances of being brought undone, or do we want to keep driving them further into a bubble?