‘Race card’ defence labelled a ‘cop out’
The NRL world has reacted swiftly and with anger after a trio of stars were fined having breached social-distancing laws after photos and videos emerged of a group camping trip near Taree over the weekend.
Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr and Tyronne Roberts-Davies were all hit with $1000 fines with both Mitchell and Addo-Carr facing further punishment.
Addo-Carr is reportedly being investigated over a possible firearms breach while Mitchell is looking at further fines for using an unregistered trail bike on South West Rocks beach, according to Channel 7.
Both Mitchell and Addo-Carr offered up apologies for their actions on Instagram, but Fox League host Dan Ginnane believed Addo-Carr had gone down a tricky path.
"I wonder if the act or the excuse that was given is going to rile people up the most," Ginnane said on Fox League.
"You've got the act, just kids doing dumb things and they cop their whack. But then Josh texts Phil Rothfield, who broke the story, and this is what he text him: 'They're my family mate, their my cousins and two of my uncles. I don't know what to say, I came up here for my pregnant missus, she's about to have a baby then spend some time with my family".
"I don't think anyone would have any issues with that. But then the Storm winger sent a text message 15 minutes later.
"'Just touching on what we spoke about, mate it was a cultural gathering. Learning about our land and culture, learning how to live life off the land, thank you take care'.
"Now I think people heard that and thought 'are we playing the race card?' And that may be a harsh way of looking at it but then they see vision of young blokes riding bikes and thinking is that a cultural gathering, maybe it's a cultural gathering we're not aware of.
"Once we go down that path, that's very dangerous territory of using such an, excuse is not the word I want to use, but to go down that path, to play that card it may be accurate but boy I reckon that's got people as riled up as the actions themselves.
"I think most people can look at these actions and go 'OK you blokes are being dickheads but cop your $1000, move on. That seems to be the reaction today."
Ginnane's comments were backed up by Paul Kent who scathed the excuse given in a time when most people are struggling as they abide by the lockdown rules.
"My understanding is the clubs are very upset with what the players have done," Kent said on Fox League.
"Lets remember just a week ago Project Apollo got the coaches online and said if you break these isolation rules and go out and do the wrong thing, you potentially lose competition points. That's how serious they tried to stress to the coaches this was that they abide by the protocols in place.
"Now if these guys, not even a week later, they posted their own crime ... like that's where we're at. To try and come out and say a couple of blokes were struggling and wanted to get back to culture, that's just an excuse.
"In the fair dinkum stakes, everybody is doing it a little bit tough to different degrees but we're all doing it a bit tough. We're all stuck at home, so we're all going through a bit.
"Second to that, as far as the culture goes, I get going and having a camp. But riding motorbikes and shooting guns I don't think is what aboriginal people regard as their culture. That's just a cop out.
"That's just a sympathy vote to try and get some sympathy back to say to people look after me, the old mental welfare cultural card gets played, it's rubbish.
"Try and act like a man and do the right thing and when you don't do the right thing, then man up and say you know what, I stuffed up I apologise, it won't happen again. Then go away and learn your lesson."
If an NRL player posted a photo of themselves breaking social distancing rules at Coogee beach, that’d be a big story too. People blaming the media for the Josh Addo-Carr/Latrell situation is nonsensical.— Scott Bailey (@ScottBaileyAAP) April 27, 2020
Former NSW captain Paul Gallen also wasn't on board with Addo-Carr's defence and labelled the photographs laughable.
"It's disappointing. I do my best to stick up for players when I can because I know how hard it can be," Gallen said on Wide World of Sports' 'The Captain & Coach'.
"They haven't really broken NRL protocols, but they have broken protocols for everyone [else]. You can't go out and go on holidays, go out with 10 or 12 blokes riding motorbikes.
"There's a bit of silliness in it as well, posting it on social media when you can't be doing it. They'll learn a couple of lessons, I think there will be monetary fines involved and the NRL will have to come down hard.
"When people are talking on national television about how the game shouldn't be coming back and then you see two of our stars go out and do what they've done, it's disappointing for everyone.
"It's a disappointing situation with what the game is going through at the moment. I can't imagine how upset Peter V'landys must be with all the work he's done over the past month to get to the stage where we are now."
NRL heavyweight Phil Gould has called for year long bans for Mitchell and Addo-Carr.
"They've let themselves down, they've let their teammates down, they've let the code down," Gould told 2GB. Asked what he would do if he was in charge of their clubs: "For the protection of your own club, you need to isolate these boys from the rest of the group.
"Honestly, they don't deserve to be playing this year.
"What they've done is horribly irresponsible, its might seem like a harsh penalty, and that was uncalled for, particularly when our game is trying to convince government that we can restart."
Radio host Ray Hadley lashed out at Addo-Carr's defence over the gathering by pointing to the videos of the group trail bike riding and shooting tin cans.
"Whether they were your uncles or cousins or not. Introducing your pregnant missus and wanting to spend time with her family - that's not allowed either," Hadley said on The Ray Hadley Morning Show.
"I don't know how many cultural gatherings in indigenous communities across Australia over the last few hundred years have raced on trail bikes with no helmet, used a gun to shoot not game, not food but tin cans, I just think you might be barking up the wrong tree, Josh.
"When you do a dumb thing you should put your hand up and say 'yeah I shouldn't have done it'.
"You're kidding, you're absolutely kidding."