After filing my final Canterbury-Bankstown match report for 2018, I was already planning and preparing for next season. Just a day later my focus shifted, as front page headlines around the mad Monday celebrations of the Bulldogs’ players took centre stage.
Various people asked me to write something immediately, in defence of the players. Yet any knee jerk reaction would lack focus and perspective. Measured reflection wasn’t commonplace throughout the past week, as the media lathered up over the images emanating from the Bulldogs’ end of season do.
I felt more inclined to bite the proverbial tongue, soak up the rather fervent hysteria around the incident and comment in due course.
It was a week where agendas became as transparent and predictable as a liberal party spill motion. In the end, everybody lost. Except perhaps the click counts of certain media outlets. Clicks that were placed as a higher priority than a fair and balanced perspective on the actual events.
The players, fans and rugby league itself all lost. The match between the Storm and Rabbitohs on Friday night proved that beyond doubt. It should have been the lead story, along with the other semi-finals to come, yet Adam Elliott’s back side and obscured penis drew far more attention.
I have a confession to make. Somewhere around the mid 90’s, after a monstrous night out with university friends on a semester ending harbour cruise, I was catching the night ride bus home from Town Hall in Sydney.
Put Bluntly, I was drunk. Well and truly drunk. I felt ill when I boarded the bus and disembarked briskly. The entire contents of my stomach was emptied into the gutter, as I was silhouetted by the headlights of the bus. Fellow Sydney party goers cheered me on.
Just months later, a friend and I engaged in an alcohol driven nudie run around the Toowoon Bay Caravan Park. Wearing nothing but a belt, fellow holiday makers saw flashes of pasty white flesh whizz by their patios, whilst our girlfriends at the time pissed themselves at our stupidity.
Over the years, others have pushed the envelope further and far more controversially. A full nude lap of Canterbury racecourse at an annual university ball had attendees on their feet and the sight of friends ending nights out with a violent spew was commonplace.
Is it anything of which to be proud? Certainly not. Yet neither is it something to be ashamed of. For many, such moments are vivid memories of something we call life, embarrassing or hilarious as they might be. They also become lessons learned and stories that might prove instructive to the next generation, as we encourage our kids to be a little less foolish than ourselves.
If you have never, ever gone a little over the top, drank a little too much and done something stupid at a party, good on you. It isn’t a rite of passage and perhaps you have the right to cast judgement open those weak willed drunkards who can’t handle their drink.
However, I am guessing that the majority of you are shaking your head and laughing at your own memories.
At the core of the matter is the simple fact that my, and potentially your actions on the particular night in question, hurt no one but yourself. The difference for us, was that footage of our behaviour was little or no chance of becoming a national headline.
And therein lies the murky filth that became of the end of season celebrations at the Harbourview Hotel last Monday. It was still valid front page news last Friday according to at least one paper; using the fines dished out to both club and players as validation to flog the horse a few more times.
Personally, I am far more concerned about our questionable new Prime Minister, children in detention and a Federal Government that told me the absence of a carbon tax would keep energy prices under control.
Is what happened beside the Harbour Bridge on Monday important? Of course it is. Should it be reported? Yes. But the story should be brought to the attention of the media after it occurs, rather than being planned, initiated and engendered by a media organisation itself.
Two questions struck me as I reflected on the entire saga. Firstly, were all eight clubs who missed semi-final action staked out in the same manner; with the Bulldogs the unlucky catch for 2019?
Secondly, I wondered why the supposedly vile and inappropriate photos were deemed fit to grace the front page day after day. There appears to be some irony in reporting debauched and disgusting behavior yet still finding a place for the associated images to appear on the front page.
It appears that the Bulldogs were got and got very well by a media organisation hoping for a slip up. The stupidity of booking an open aired venue was a recipe for disaster and whoever approved it erred in their judgement, yet the players did no damage to anyone but themselves.
In the end, the club has lost a sponsor, suffered the barbs of an enthusiastic press and been made to look unprofessional with the short sightedness in its choice of venue.
Crime of the century? Certainly not. I too have made a few errors in judgement over the years and aren’t proud of some of the choices I have made.
Do any of those moments make me a bad person? No way. There are a heck of a lot of decisions that we all probably regret in life.
Perhaps we should all reflect on the fact that whilst we were making foolish decisions on our journey from the stupidity of adolescence to supposed adulthood, we didn’t always get it right.
No doubt, many NRL players got things wrong on mad Monday. Canterbury were caught on film making those poor decisions.
Thank goodness there weren’t cameras around when the rest of us were making ours.