Mark Coyne
Mark Coyne

Two sides of the Coyne argument

It's not often that my esteemed colleague and friend Robert "Crash" Craddock and I disagree.

In fact it has long been my opinion that you couldn't get into an argument with sport journalism's Mr Affable if you tried.

Until now.

As Crash pointed out in his column yesterday he believes that Mark Coyne should resign from his position on the ARL Commission following the incident in Singapore that saw him fined $4000 for swearing at police.

 

 

A contrite-looking Mark Coyne with his wife at Sydney airport after his return from Singapore. Picture: Toby Zerna
A contrite-looking Mark Coyne with his wife at Sydney airport after his return from Singapore. Picture: Toby Zerna

Failing that, he should be dismissed on Thursday after Commission chairman Peter Beattie confers with all clubs.

I am of the opposite view and, in fact, believe that Coyne is the right man to step into the position of chairman when Beattie's tenure is completed.

The fact that my support for Coyne is mirrored by the majority of Sydney-based rugby league writers hasn't made it any more palatable in Crash's eyes.

As he told me yesterday: "Can you imagine what they would be saying if it was John Grant or Peter Beattie? They would be tearing them to shreds."

 

 

The Sydney media wouldn’t have been as forgiving of former ARL chairman John Grant as they are of Mark Coyne, says Robert Craddock. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
The Sydney media wouldn’t have been as forgiving of former ARL chairman John Grant as they are of Mark Coyne, says Robert Craddock. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

True, but Coyne isn't the chairman of the ARL - not yet anyway. He is just a relatively newly appointed commissioner who, in his long and illustrious career as a player and business executive has never put a foot wrong.

Now I totally get Crash's point that Coyne handled the situation poorly by not advising the Commission immediately of the truth of the matter.

Lying and using a fake medical ailment as an excuse for missing Commission meetings when he was in fact in Singapore for six weeks awaiting a court appearance wasn't a good move from an Australian perspective.

It was however the advice that he had been given by a local lawyer and while I, happily, have never been in that position, who can say how any of us would react if facing the legal system of a foreign country? Ask Schapelle Corby whether standard rules apply.

 

The Schapelle Corby story is a cautionary tale for all Australians arrested in Asia. Picture: Lukman/Bintoro.
The Schapelle Corby story is a cautionary tale for all Australians arrested in Asia. Picture: Lukman/Bintoro.

Again Crash is right in asking how any NRL player in future can be punished for not following the rule of immediately advising the Integrity Unit if charged with an offence by police, when one of the game's own commissioners failed to do just that.

My argument would be that there is a big difference between someone running afoul of the law in the suburbs of Brisbane or Sydney to being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon for not having your passport on you in Asia.

Because, let's not forget exactly what Coyne did.

Yes, he'd had too much to drink - he admits that - but it was only when he couldn't produce his passport (which was in the safe of his hotel room a few metres away) that he was taken into custody as a suspected illegal immigrant.

His reaction, fuelled by the drink, was to swear at the police and in Singapore (a country where you can be arrested for littering) that is a serious offence. (Not so much here by the way, where the F-word is considered by most magistrates as "everyday language".)

So OK, I agree with Crash on those points. Coyne was wrong not to fess up immediately to the Commission and, by extension, to the rugby league public. And true, the Sydney media is going a lot easier on him than they would on any of their regular whipping boys such as Grant or Beattie.

But let's not throw out the baby with the bath water here. As a rugby league writer for over 30 years I have come across many, many players and I can honestly say that few have struck me as a better person than Mark Coyne.

 

 

Rugby league has produced few better players, or people, than Mark Coyne.
Rugby league has produced few better players, or people, than Mark Coyne.

In all my dealings with him he has been approachable, honest and humble - which you can't always say about some players, past and present.

Can we really afford to lose someone like that from the game because of one dumb mistake?