Richie Barnett on league
Opinion and analysis from former Kiwis captain Richie Barnett

Richie Barnett: Our game is bigger, better than its idiots

Carney’s downfall mustn’t eclipse work of the good ambassadors

Todd Carney.
Todd Carney.

League is not a thug's game, contrary to what many people might think.

Many have taken potshots at league over the last few days after the latest incident involving Todd Carney. I can understand why.

What possessed Carney to do what he did and allow himself to be photographed is beyond me.

But it doesn't mean the game is rotten. Yes, others have also crossed the line - as some have done in other sports - but league has done so much for so many people.

All the programmes it runs - Men of League, literacy, numeracy, bullying in schools, reading in schools - are often overlooked. The work league does in the community, and the money spent helping people, is phenomenal.

I have spoken at schools on many occasions and if only one child really listens to my message, it's worth it.

It was announced recently that, among other things, 84 per cent of all NRL players have completed or are engaged in further education or workplace training and 60 per cent of NRL and Toyota Cup players attending university are the first in their families to do so.

Many have said Carney shouldn't have been given so many chances because of his charge sheet. But what would have happened if he had been cut loose after his first misdemeanour? Where would he be now? Prison? I shudder to think what he might have done had he not had league in his life.

We all make mistakes and deserve second chances. But I agree with the decision to sack Carney. There comes a time when enough is enough and he was doing too much damage to the game.

It will probably mean the end of his playing career, but it doesn't mean he can't make a positive difference to league.

If he admits his faults - at the moment he's blaming everyone else - he could spread a positive message about the mistakes he's made. He could talk to young people and warn them against following his path.

I'm sure Carney will be regretting his actions. He's lost his ability to do the thing he was good at - and earned handsomely from (last year he signed a A$2 million ($2.14 million) contract with the Sharks) - and his dignity.

The game has a duty of care to look beyond his mistakes and see what else it can do for him, but also what he can do for it.

But he has to show genuine remorse. It might take a year or more for him to come to this place but his message could be a powerful one.

There are plenty of stories of people who have reformed themselves. League has made a huge impact on the likes of Suaia Matagi and Manu Mau, who both spent time in prison, and Ruben Wiki and Manu Vatuvei have often talked about being on the wrong side of the tracks as kids. NZRL high performance manager Tony Iro spent time this week coaching Paremoremo Prison inmates.

Yes, there are some idiots in league, as there are in wider society. But it doesn't mean the game is broken.

- NZ Herald

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