Belmore is well and truly under siege now after their New Zealand half Ben Roberts was mixed up in a large scale brawl in Wollongong last night. The seriousness of the drama is certainly a concern, the well known Roberts was reportedly knocked unconscious and taken to hospital by friends after he was hit and kicked repeatedly by another party.
Amazingly it seems that rather than go to Police, Ben Roberts and his group of friends returned to the scene of the crime to seek out the instigators and this is where the real trouble began. Heavily intoxicated and refusing to move on, Police became involved and it’s alleged that Roberts resisted arrest and attempted to punch one of the assisting Officers. From there, capsicum spray was used and Roberts was subdued and subsequently charged by Wollongong local Police.
Now even if Roberts was an innocent party in the first scuffle, surely him or his mates would use common sense and seek out the authorities? The potential of this situation to get heavily out of hand was always there – yet Roberts and his crew went back into the danger zone and caused more havoc – it’s simply unbelievable.
The timing couldn’t be worse for the Bulldogs and probably the NRL as a whole. Continued public incidents are marring what is set to be a huge year for the game of Rugby League. Hot on the heels of Tim Smith and Jonathan Thurston battling the booze, Roberts has quickly stepped up as the next bad boy in line. The Bulldogs in particular have a problem with a party culture and players not towing the line – it’s been a disease rotting their core for many years now and refusal to come down hard on the guilty parties will simply not stop the rot.
If the Dogs did come down hard on Roberts and actually sacked him, the problem is another NRL club would probably pick up the scraps and throw Ben Roberts a lifeline – totally ignoring the problem and re-igniting the chance of it happening again.
The Dogs now have several hard decisions to make before the kick off of NRL in 2008 or they will almost certainly see themselves in a whole world of trouble. The problem is the NRL themselves are in the same predicament, if they too don’t fight fire with fire – they are going to have more than few bushfires on their hands in the years ahead and the damage to the games image will be unrepairable.