By Craig Bellamy, The Australian
Everyone will have an opinion on the situation last weekend as there’s no doubt the game took a hit – multiple hits in fact.
Not only does the news affect the game as a whole, it has ripple affects to the clubs involved, all their staff and players, and most importantly, the families of the men involved.
So there will be many opinions on the issue of illicit drugs in rugby league, and then on the individual guys caught on security cameras or charged by police.
All I can say is that we at Melbourne Storm are going to support Jesse Bromwich with whatever he needs; whatever he wants to get back on track. We will support him every step of the way. Although Kevin Proctor is no longer at our club, he was with us for a long time and if we can support him in anyway we will.
I’m anti-drugs. I’m against using drugs, whether it’s social or performance enhancing. I don’t know how strong the temptation is to try drugs, or how easy it is to obtain them.
But I do know Jesse and Kev as they have been in our Storm system right form the start of their careers, even before their NRL careers began. I know people have made comments about that and they are entitled to those.
While I was hugely surprised when I heard about their late-night incident in Canberra – you could have knocked me over with a feather actually – I wanted to remind everyone that the fact both players put their hands up straight away shows the type of people they are.
I spoke to Jess last Saturday afternoon. He offered not one excuse, not one attempt to blame a set of circumstances, the system, or someone else’ behaviour. He admitted his mistake up front and said he would accept any consequences.
And the consequences have been heavy. Not being able to play in the World Cup is a big one. Losing the New Zealand captaincy is another one.
I’m not saying they are the wrong punishments. But I will say they are harsh.
Storm also penalised Jesse by donating his match payment to charity; suspending him for two club games, I know Kev received a four-game penalty from the Gold Coast. Our mentality was that the other NZRL penalties were pretty severe. We also firstly consulted the NRL’s Integrity Unit and the Rugby League Players’ Association about the penalty we were about to impose.
So I can’t explain the difference between the two and four game suspensions. But we did check with the game’s hierarchy and the union about our intentions and they had no issues with them.
Our club has taken a hit off the field. And on the field, we have lost two front rowers from the last round, the St George Illawarra game, with Christian Welch (knee) out for the rest of the year and Nelson Asofa-Solomona (hand) out for four weeks. One of the guys we hoped to put in there, Vincent Leuluai is also out injured and now Jesse is unavailable.
It is a bad time for our club for this to happen. It’s hurt the game, the Kiwis as well. Having said all that, the worse thing that has happened from what I have seen this week is the effect on Jesse’s family. That’s the thing he is most upset about. I’m hoping everyone at our club – players, staff, officials – can learn from this experience.
When you do the wrong thing, it just doesn’t affect you but the people closest to you that you love the most… your mum and dad, brothers and sisters, your wife, partner, your children.
I don’t think a lot of players realise that until they’ve done the wrong thing. That’s the big message and a lesson to all our players. If they could only see the hurt Jess is going through it might make them think twice.
Jesse has never been late to any team or club function, session, meeting, requirement. He is a wonderful help with the young Polynesian players here. He has earned plenty of brownie points in our club family so he deserves our help.
Yes, Jesse and Kev have made a big, big mistake without a doubt. But believe me, I know the type of people they are, and they are worth fighting for to restore their good names and reputations. I am not going to judge them or look down my nose at them. I will support them in any way I can. They are not diminished in my eyes.
I will say the NRL do an incredible job educating our players. But one thing that irks me a little is that under the NRL illicit drugs policy, a first strike means players undergo further education and are handed a suspended fine. But they stay anonymous while they try to turn things around.
Jesse and Kev were caught on security video so their names are out in the open, even though they are technically first-strike players. So perhaps dozens of other players remain anonymous, while these two players are named and shamed. I am on the fence about the effectiveness in that.
But I will say that no player is oblivious to the risks. The NRL has made sure of that with their programs. Perhaps we will all look back in 12 months time and see there has been some good come out of all this. People will see what Jess and Kev and their families have gone through and it might stop other players from going through the same thing.
Craig Bellamy is exclusively managed by The Fordham Company.