For all the good, wonderful and exciting things that happen in rugby league – and more specifically, the NRL – there are unfortunately bad things that also happen and detract from the good elements of the game.
Whether it be indiscretions of some sort that land a player in hot water, foolishness from a player that sees them potentially throw away a league career or a departure of a popular player that shocks many fans, low-lights are always prevalent.
Suffice to say, 2014 was a year of a good number of low-lights and here is a top 10 list – in no particular order mind you – of the low-lights that had everyone talking.
1. Kirisome Auva’a’s suspension – His indiscretion was well-documented and with the NRL’s hardball stance on domestic violence involving their players, their hand was forced. Auva’a copped an indefinite suspension from the game as the NRL came down hard on him after he was found guilty of causing reckless injury. With a multitude of counselling issues, anger management sessions and alcohol abuse meetings ahead of him, Auva’s suspension and crime itself, were perhaps the most hotly talked about NRL low-light in 2014.
2. Jarryd Hayne’s shock departure – Ask any rugby league and they would tell you of their shock that one of the game’s best players in Jarryd Hayne would leave the sport in any capacity. Eels fans were especially hit hard by the announcement, as Hayne left the game to pursue a dream of playing in the NFL. Perhaps the part that shocked Eels fans the most was the sudden departure of the move, as they only learnt of what was happening via a statement released from Hayne himself. In many respects, you cannot hold it against him for wanting to test his ability in another sport. He is, after all, an elite athlete that has a build and skill level to play any of the major competitive sports. That said, it was talked about for ages and even now, stories are emerging on he and his journey in the NFL.
3. Todd Carney’s #UrineGate – This one needs no introduction. Everyone knows what happened, how it went down and what it eventually led to. It all started with one innocent photo that spread like wildfire, thus ending the NRL career of talented star, Todd Carney. The graphic and disturbing nature of the photo, one that had him peeing into his own mouth at a urinal, had fans around the world disgusted and shocked at the nature of the content. It ended up being the death-knell for Carney’s career in the NRL, as the Cronulla Sharks – his then club – opted to terminate his contract, as a result of numerous indiscretions over the years at their club and at other clubs. All was not lost for Carney, though, with the half now signing at Super League side, the Catalan Dragons.
4. Paul Carter and his drink driving – Young, naive and frankly, stupid. Two incidents within a year that both involved drink driving was the downfall for a Paul Carter, a promising Gold Coast Titans player. The first incident resulted in a suspended licence and a heavy reprimand from the club, as they hoped it would just be a one-off. When the second incident occurred, though, it was the final straw. The Titans hand was forced and they terminated the contract of the promising utility. As in all cases of this ilk, the club will stand by him and offer him counselling and support but for the short-term at least, his career is stagnant.
5. Bird’s wee near the cop car – Getting married is liberating, exciting, thrilling. You certainly would not expect it to get you in trouble either but Greg Bird found himself on the wrong side of the law just after his. Too many drinks can lead to silly things and Bird was charged with public urination when he inadvertently did a wee ‘on’ a police car – even if he claimed it was in between two cars and not on the police car. Though his inebriated state may have clouded his sight and judgement, he was eventually fined by the club, issued with a criminal infringement notice and stripped of the club captaincy. Bird was apologetic about the incident and asked for forgiveness but ultimately, it was a bad look for the NRL. Again.
6. Jamil Hopoate, like father, like son – The Hopoate name. Synonymous with incidents, trouble and violence in rugby league and rugby league fans thought they had seen enough of it with John. Think again. Young son Jamil has emulated his father’s acts and further brought the NRL brand and image into disrepute. The incident, a violent one, proved to be the end of yet another rugby league chance, after he was sentenced to prison for 12 months as a result. Jamil has never learnt over the years, sacked numerous times from the Manly Sea Eagles and the Parramatta Eels. At only 20 years old and with so many discretions behind him, it would take a brave man – or team for that matter – to take him on board.
7. Tetevano’s domestic violence – Unfortunately, it seems to be a theme in the NRL – players departing the game due to being suspended or banned for domestic violence. Zane Tetevano was another casualty of the NRL’s hard stance – and rightfully so – with his Manly Sea Eagles contract terminated after a domestic violence incident. There are counselling sessions galore, rehabilitation practices and a long time away from the game for Tetevano, who again, will be hard-pressed to find another NRL team upon his rehab completion.
8. A rugby league death – Rugby league is supposed to be full of happy, uplifting moments, so when the community is forced to deal with news of a death, it his home hard and affects everyone. In what was a tragic accident, former player Blaine Rozs was working in Jaspers Brush when stacking rolls of turf with a tractor went horribly wrong. It hit the Dragons community hard especially, as Rozs was a former player with the club in their junior ranks. The rugby league world went into mourning after hearing of his passing with fans, clubs and friends galore all sending out their condolences. Blaine, RIP, Buddy.
9. Paul Gallen’s Twitter tirade – Arguably the incident that led to the most people talking – and not in a good way – was a one tweet Twitter tirade by Cronulla Sharks and NSW captain, Paul Gallen. A tweet that is not about to be repeated here in this article, in nicer, layman terms, the tweet highlighted a clearly frustrated Gallen criticising the NRL and CEO Dave Smith for the way in which then Sharks CEO Steve Noyce left the club. The tweet was obviously deleted but only after some fans urged the forward to do so. Gallen felt the full brunt of the punishment, though, fined $35,000 for the outburst.
10. Iconic Jets player dies – The Newtown Jets. A team with a rich, proud history, and a team that has produced some fantastic players over the years. 2014 was a year that will have them in mourning and remembering the date each day, after club legend Brian ‘Chicka’ Moore passed away. He played for the Jets, coached the Jets and was named in their team of the century. His name will long be remembered within the proud club, as they honour the service that one of their greatest ever players provided and the spectacles he put on for the fans.