Under pressure Eels boss Denis Fitzgerald has come out with another howler this week, this time calling out for a complete alcohol and tobacco ban for all Parramatta Eels players in the future. Effectively tabling a plan to control the casual habits and freedom of choice that NRL players currently receive as employees.
While Fitzgerald has come up with some mind-boggling calls in the past, including the call to scrap the whole Melbourne Storm club – it seems the pressure the Eels boss is under to retain his job might be causing him to lose focus.
Fitzgerald is desperately trying to ring fence his position as the Eels club boss, earlier this month allegations suggested he was blocking rival Terry Leadbeater from having a membership at the Parramatta Leagues club.
Now Fitzgerald claims in the wake of the Brett Stewart scandal, he wants to block out all booze and cigarettes from the club.
This would be akin to your boss at work saying, “Hey guys, I know you don’t drink at work – but I won’t permit anyone drinking at their homes or having cigarettes while they work for me”
Is Fitzgerald living on another planet? Surely, the one time proud Eels boss has past his used by date?
The recent Manly saga, has Fitzy pushing not only the Eels but the NRL towards a complete ban at the next CEOs’ meeting. But it’s believed even without support for the move, league’s longest-serving CEO will enforce a season-long booze and cigarette ban at the Eels.
Denis was recently outlaying cost cutting plans at the Eels as the club was hit by record losses, the aging boss scoffing at paycuts to his apparent $400,000 a year paypacket. But this latest mind-boggling plan by Fitzgerald could end up costing the Eels plenty if they want to enforce the ‘Police State’ type plan.
Fitzgerald will need to employ several private detectives to monitor Eels players in their homes, possibly tailing them to family parties and other events – trying to get a sniff of their booze levels.
We really are treading a dangerous path here, surely other NRL bosses will see it this way and stop this ridiculous plan in it’s track. If it’s enforced at the Eels, chances are they will lose a host of players – employees that for the most part are grown adults who should be allowed to live their personal lives how they see fit.
“We would have to have further discussion about that with the players and at board level,” Fitzgerald told Sydney Newspaper The Sun-Herald.“It’s conditional on that. The best way is to have that in a standard NRL contract. If they don’t go with it’s something we will still consider at the Eels.”
Fitzgerald first hatched his ‘Police State’ plans after the Jarryd Hayne shooting in Kings Cross. Fitzy touching on the subject with Eels players.
“It was not an idea that was particularly warmly greeted by the players,” Fitzgerald confirmed.
A response that wasn’t surprising, any decent player who enjoys a wine or quiet beer at home would be horrified that his boss would try and stop him from enjoying one of lifes simple pleasures.
“I think an alcohol ban will come into play here, but it’s something we need to have an in-depth discussion about at the CEOs’ meeting. said Fitzy.
“Not only should players not consume alcohol, but they shouldn’t be allowed to smoke either. It’s not just because of bad behaviour but because we demand so much of the players and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their physical fitness.
The Sydney Newspaper; Sun Herald also spoke to several Eels player – both Eric Grothe and Brett Finch directly opposed any such powerful moves by Fitzgerald.
“I’ve had the odd player who has had a self-imposed ban, but I’ve never said to a player, ‘You must go off it,”‘ Sheens said. “I don’t think you can make someone do that, it’s something you have to do yourself.
“A number of players drink and play the game and it’s only a very small group who upset everyone. Not everyone should pay the price for that, that’s ridiculous.”
Fitzgerald admitted it would be hard to enforce the ambitious plan; to save on private detectives – maybe a lie detector could be used to test players randomly about their off-field habits. Who knows, maybe Fitzy might take things a step further and employ ‘shock’ treatment to offenders when detected!
I mean seriously, this would have to be the most ridiculous plan ever hatched by anyone involved with Rugby League.
“We can certainly police it publicly and also follow up with breath and urine testing,” Fitzgerald said. “With those measures in place we’d soon catch players regularly breaking the rule.
“Alcohol-fuelled incidents are often the only time rugby league makes news in non-eastern states. I’ve got a sister in Perth and â€¦ the perception over there is that league players are all alcoholic thugs.”
Knights boss Steve Burraston was another to shoot the idea down very quickly.
“Every person is entitled to have a beer with their mates or share a glass of wine with their partner over dinner,” Knights CEO Steve Burraston said.
“It would be ridiculous to suggest otherwise. The key is to ensure players consume alcohol responsibly. We prefer to go down the route of educating players and we’ve done a lot of work over the past 12 months with the assistance of the Australian Drug Foundation.”
“This really isn’t a football matter, it’s a social matter,” he said.
And that’s what it boils down to; the day in which an employer can control what employees do in their own time – is a sad, sad day.
The Knights boss summed it up with a great example below;
“If an electrician gets drunk and bashes someone in the pub, do we demand that all electricians give up the drink? To say that all footballers should be banned from alcohol is equally as silly as that would be.
“I enjoy having a glass of wine with my wife at dinner. Do I then go out and become abusive or hit someone?
“No. Most players don’t either and we shouldn’t forget that”