Just a need to lightly pass over Ben Barba and his rumoured gambling problems.
The irony is so obvious that almost no-one has bothered to mention it.
On one hand there is the NRL’s planned poster boy seeking escape through gambling because of emotional upsets.
On the other there is the NRL accepting gambling dollars from everywhere, TV fans being bombarded with gambling plugs (and remember, bet responsibly) and to cap it all, a ground called Centrebet Stadium.
No, that’s not the capper.
The league’s official launch is at Star Casino.
You couldn’t invent this stuff.
Let’s look on the bright side.
There’d been no drunken atrocities, no assaults, no shootings.
Other sports had kicked rugby league out of the park.
The NRL needed someone step up and get rugby league on the front page where it belongs, to have the greatest game of all dominate news bulletins, as it should.
Step up Ben Barba, a champion answering the call in the game’s time of need.
He’s done the game a far greater service than being just a mere poster boy.
He’s kicked those other sports out of the park.
There has been some sacrifice, of course.
The sad thing is that Barba came off the field after a trial game and said he didn’t want to play anymore.
Sad because no-one has communicated the sheer joy of playing more than the smiling Barba did.
The sadder thing is that Barba has so much turmoil in his young life.
The great questions have always been ‘‘how much are clubs morally responsible for their players’ welfare?, ‘‘Are they their players’ keeper?’’
No need to be cynical about the Bulldogs’ response.
Bulldogs CEO Todd Greenberg’s public and private responses have been admirable.
Barba’s problems are a bit more complex than a game plan.
It will be only a tragedy if that joy in playing is not communicated again.
‘‘I’ll play for Canberra this month, and if I don’t like it I’ll give Parramatta a try, and if that doesn’t work out I’ll sign a contract with the Tigers, and if they’re no good, I’ll sign with the Broncos for next season.
Josh Papalii has given an extreme example of the syndrome.
Papalii has signed a three-year contract with Parramatta and is reportedly having second thoughts and wants to stay at Canberra.
One of movie mogul Sam Goldwyn’s famous Goldwynisms was that ‘‘a verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.’’
Well, in the NRL a written contract often isn’t worth the paper it’s written on for young players who have someone to brush their teeth, clean their boots and wipe their bottoms for them.
Players offered money the average fan would take a virtual lifetime to earn, and Papalii has reputedly signed a three-year deal worth $400,000.
Such riches and the attendant problems for one so young are not a million miles from Barba’s.
Those in the real world might think Papalii has a legal and moral obligation to play with Parramatta, whatever the loophole in the contract.
Papalii might be able to renege and stay with Canberra, as the Eels might judge that he’s so unhappy, it’s not worth his coming.
That might serve Papalii in the short term, but what will become of him when he hangs up the boots, if he retains so little concept of responbilities and how the real world works?
It’s frightening, and the NRL has a lot of catch-up to play.
It might start in high schools, where there are plenty of alleged students who are just there to play football.
School is both a necessary nuisance and performances a passport for when they become NRL stars and make millions.
Many play but few are chosen, be it NRL, AFL, ABL or any other game.
There’s been window-dressing but it’s a problem the NRL hasn’t started to address.
The Australian cricket selectors have no choice but to address their self-created problems after the First-Test shellacking from India, and sheallacking-thrashing it was.
All the obvious points have been made.
Why were three pace bowlers and a medium-pacer in Moses Henriques chosen?
If they thought pace was the greater strength, why not a balance with two pace bowlers, Henriques and another spinner?
If Xavier Doherty, Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith weren’t good enough to play on a crater dustbowl, why are they on the tour, if not to be the finest tourists since Ray Bright?
Indian batsmen play Nathan Lyon types every day for breakfast.
Why wasn’t the wicket-taking Steve O’Keefe there for variety?
Amidst it all, one player got off light.
Matthew Wade’s keeping again wasn’t up to scratch — as feared — and he failed with the bat, and at No.6, a position at least one place too high.
Meanwhile, Brad Haddin’s keeping remains a level above Wade’s and he’s been scoring a poultice of runs in the Sheffield Shield.
He’s even scored runs in the cauldron — the Twenty/20 — and that seems to be the test these days.
It’s a test Doherty passed. None of this shield nonsense that O’ Keefe performs in.