Robert Dillon: Seven Days in League

Thursday

MANLY assistant coach Willie Peters is sacked after an alleged punch-up with a fellow staff member outside a pub in The Rocks.

MAKE MY DAY: Broncos coach Wayne Bennett prefers to maintain a Clint Eastwood-style poker face.

MAKE MY DAY: Broncos coach Wayne Bennett prefers to maintain a Clint Eastwood-style poker face.

This is a sad indictment of what rugby league’s Mad Monday has become.

I blame the NRL integrity unit boss Joe “Killjoy” Collins, who emailed all clubs recently, forewarning them of dire consequences if players disgrace themselves on the squirt in time-honoured fashion.

“End-of-season celebrations and the like are a risk period for players and their clubs, so please take this opportunity to remind your playing group about the NRL’s expectations and rules in ­relation to illicit drugs,” the email said.

“Can I also ask that you ensure that your club has measures in place to reduce the risk of unacceptable behaviour during any end-of-season events, and that your players and staff understand the importance of adhering to the high standards of personal behaviour at these events and during the off-season.”

As a result of this Draconian threat, players are gunshy. The vast majority have engaged in nothing wilder than a few games of tenpin bowling, followed by a team-bonding session at Max Brenner.

Peters has done his best to uphold an annual tradition and can at least join the queue at Centrelink with his head held high.

Meanwhile, an online bookmaker has pledged a $2000 donation to charity for every smile Wayne Bennett cracks during Brisbane’s semi-final clash with Penrith.

It’s an interesting PR stunt, but I can’t imagine it will cost them much.

The master coach spent three years in Newcastle, and by all accounts he only ever smiled once a month ... after checking his bank balance on payday.

Friday 

I am alarmed to read the following tweet from veteran rugby league journalist Brent Read, who is apparently in transit to tonight’s semi-final: “Unbelievable scenes on way to Suncorp Stadium. Some bloke in a convertible went elbow-deep picking his nose and then proceeded to eat it.”

In civilised societies, such behaviour is considered disgusting. But everyone knows that residents north of the Tweed River are a strange, subhuman species.

In other developments, the aforementioned Willie Peters has reportedly levelled bullying allegations against the bloke he biffed, Manly high-performance manager Dan Ferris.

Ferris is accused of childish pranks such as gluing Peters’ laptop shut, hiding his keys and wallet and leaving the heater on in his office in mid-summer.

At least he didn’t resort to the ultimate Manly bullying tactic ... patented many years ago by the infamous John Hopoate.

Saturday

IN what is labelled a “Cinderella story” by the Daily Telegraph, Dragons prop Russell Packer is pictured in graduation gown and mortarboard felt cap, accompanied by his young family, after accepting his graduate certificate in business at the University of Wollongong.

The story reminds us that, “two years ago, he was wearing prison greens”.

Packer, who claims he was drinking “12 to 18 cans of beer a day” from the age of 12, is now a reformed man. He’s off the grog, he’s playing some good footy, and he’s getting himself an education.

It’s a remarkable transformation. It was only a few years ago, after all, that many queried if Packer was even toilet trained after he urinated, through his shorts, on the field at Suncorp Stadium.

I’d suggest the credit for this heart-warming tale of redemption should go to the Newcastle Knights.

True, Packer was only in the joint for five minutes, just long enough to drag the club’s reputation through the sewer.

But if not for the Knights, Packer would never have headed down to Sydney for a night out, and he would have never met the bloke he bashed senseless, and he would never have spent a year in the Big House.

All of which, he now acknowledges, combined to turn his life around. Hence he owes the Knights a debt of gratitude.

Sunday

SPEAKING of redemption, I note with interest that “Todd Carney’s return to the NRL is one step closer” after his release from English club Salford.

Carney’s three-year exile is one of the NRL’s saddest stories.

Sure, he had some issues, but all along I felt he was crying out for help.

Perhaps if that magistrate had sent him to jail for a year, rather than banning him from his home town of Goulburn for 12 months, he might be a different man today. It worked a treat for Russell Packer.

Monday

MORE than a week after his team’s controversial exit from the semi-finals, Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan admits his criticism of referees may have been slightly over the top.

“I owe you an apology,” he says in a statement to fans. “I owe the game an apology. I’m sorry for the way I reacted.”

It’s always admirable when someone is big enough to admit they were wrong.  I’m sure the $30,000 fine hanging over Flanno’s head has nothing to do with his change in attitude. 

Tuesday

BRONCOS winger Corey Oates is rated a good chance of playing in this week’s grand final qualifier against Melbourne, despite a head knock that left him ga-ga against the Panthers.

It’s reassuring to see that in this nanny-state era of concussion protocols and player welfare, when it comes down to the big games, all bets are off.

Wednesday

FOR weeks the Maitland Maniac has been bombarding me with a ludicrous rumour: Cooper Cronk to join the Bulldogs next year.

He’s the world’s greatest clown, the Maniac, so I can’t take him seriously.

But after Canterbury’s decision to bone Des Hasler, what odds on Cronk taking over as captain-coach?

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