To state the bleeding obvious, so serious are the unproven allegations that everyone named in that report – starting with Burgess and the club doctor – must be stood down immediately. If they are proven innocent, they will end up owning The Australian anyway.
Burgess and the club have denied all allegations and engaged a defamation lawyer, which will salve their pain. But the bottom line remains. Some allegations are so serious you simply cannot proceed with business as usual, and these allegations have that level of gravity.
Elephant in the room
As of this week, we now have a NSW upper house inquiry into the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission (GWIC), chaired by Robert Borsak of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party. The theme of Borsak’s public remarks is that the greyhound industry should be trusted to regulate itself and look after its dogs without the GWIC presuming to protect them.
“Borsak?” I asked myself. Borsak? I think that name is familiar . . . Ah, yes, here it is again. Here, one more time for the road, is a burst from his blog detailing his killing of a couple of bull elephants in northern Zimbabwe: “I took a deep breath to settle my nerves & let it out slowly, it looked like he was going to walk right up to us through the green screen of bush.
“Mentally I went through the routine, rifle ready, safety off here he comes. In a matter of 5 seconds he was there, not walking straight up, but angling to my left, a great huge head with a small hazel eye stared down at me, clearing the jess, as I swung the Heym onto him.
I could still see that small hazel eye, looking at me, without recognition, before the bullet put out his lights forever.
“My reflexes took over as the rifle fired the right barrel at 6 paces from the brain of the giant, he went down, as if in slow motion . . . I put the second barrel into the top of his head and it was all over . . . It was awesome, he did not know what had hit him. I started to shake, this hunt was over. Four days into the hunt I had taken the first of my two bulls.
“The 500 grain Woodleigh solid had found its mark, above the left eye, angling across the skull, through the lower brain, cleanly and instantly killing the bull . . . All too soon it was over, in a flash, 37 years of shooting and hunting experience brought to bear with a shot at the bull just on a trunk’s length away. I could still see that small hazel eye, looking at me, without recognition, before the bullet put out his lights forever.”
#FFS! Don’t get me started because I could go on for a week. But let me point out the bleeding obvious. Of all the people in NSW, the very last one I want to hear from when it comes to the subject of animal welfare is Robert Borsak, and the idea that he is chairing an inquiry into greyhounds turns my stomach, and should turn the stomach of anyone in the government with any gumption.
Talk about the grudge match of the season! I refer, of course, to last Friday evening’s Yamba Buccaneers versus Lennox Head Trojans under-10s rugby union match, at Lennox Head.
As the lads run themselves ragged and the parents cheer, the lead changes hands like a hot potato until, with two minutes to go – watch him now! – Yamba’s fullback, Levi, steps left, steps right, shimmies, shakes and surges through the gap! If he can score, Yamba win!
Ah, but the Lennox lads have other ideas, and close on him from all angles. Some of the Yamba parents break loose themselves, skipping down the line like so many demented crabs, urging his surging! The only person on the field not keeping up is the referee, a broken-down dad of one of the Lennox players who is huffing and puffing 25m . . . no, now 30m . . . back.
As Levi burns the grass up, he looks certain to score as the final Lennox tackler makes one last despairing lunge. Levi breaks the tackle and reaches out to score what is surely the winning try. The reaction of all the Lennox players though – eyewitnesses, officer! – is that he dropped it. The ref, when he arrives, is convinced he scored, but this is an important call and there is no TMO, bunker, DRS or VAR to turn to.
“Did you score the try, mate?” the ref asks softly.
“No, I dropped it,” laments Levi.
“Despite knowing the try would see his team win in the grudge match of the year,” my source Steve Spinks says, “Levi opted for truth and integrity over winning. What a little legend! I reckon professional footballers in all codes could learn a thing or two from this outstanding nine-year-old who proved the old saying true, that it’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game.
“And Levi played right. How do I know? I was the ref.”
Good on you, Levi. You have done the game proud.
Slurs echo through time
The bad news is that, on the one hand, little has changed. As just one example of many, in 1997 the Indigenous Newcastle Knights’ player Owen Craigie made a quiet complaint to the referee that North Sydney’s Chris Caruana had called him “a black c—”. Caruana was fined and dropped to reserve grade by the Bears.
And here we are, more than two decades later, with allegations of the same racist and sexist epithet.
Back then, Craigie got little support, with even the great Artie Beetson, a proud Indigenous man saying: “People are becoming too sensitive and it is something that is evident right throughout society. There are too many rules.”
But at least the game itself moved. Australian Rugby League chief executive Neil Whittaker consulted with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission “to draft a policy for dealing with players accused of racist sledging.”
This time it is the Titans’ Tyrone Peachey alleging that Newcastle’s Mitch Barnett called him exactly the same racist epithet. But this time no one is dismissing the complaint itself as unworthy. Just about everyone gets it. And most inspiring is Peachey’s empowerment, his refusal to let it go.
Following the example of Adam Goodes’ righteous rage and crusading courage in 2013, Peachey’s every utterance has proclaimed his attitude of, “You know what? Dobbing be damned, we are not taking this shit any more and if you cross the line, you will be called out.”
Peachey’s words after the incident are for the ages. “I need to be a role model to young Indigenous kids and for my two daughters and make sure they know it is not OK to let people say those remarks. I know exactly what I heard and that’s why I reacted the way I did. It can be put down to ignorance, heat of the competition or lack of education, either way I won’t stand for it.
I want him and everyone else to know that those things are not OK to say.
“Barnett could have called me anything else and it wouldn’t have bothered me, but for him to say what he said, I want him and everyone else to know that those things are not OK to say.”
Unsurprisingly, Barnett has denied the allegations. Nevertheless, the inspiration lies in Peachey’s courage in speaking out, and the support he has received for doing so. It is part of Owen Craigie’s legacy from all those years ago, and Adam Goodes, and all the others who have spoken up. “We are not taking this shit any more.”
Bravo. As to Craigie these days, there is another story. He most recently made the news, on the difficult subject of suicide.
“I was driving and was going to end my life,” he told Fox Sports in May. “The first person I rang was Matty Johns. He just said ‘where are you, pull over’. So I pulled over near Cooks Hill Surf Club and then Kurt Gidley rings me. He says, ‘mate, I hear you’re in a bad way’ and I said, ‘I am’. That afternoon, the Men of League Foundation rang me. A day later I filled out the paperwork and five days later, I was in rehab.” Bravissimo.
What they said
Kevin Walters on his appointment as Broncos coach: “If I can steal a line from Donald Trump, we’ve got to make the Broncos great again.”
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson ahead of their big game against the Chiefs: “But it’s going to be an exciting game. The whole world is watching.” Actually Lamar, I think you’ll find that in Beijing, Brussels and Buenos Aires they are still discussing Sonny Bill’s comeback game off the bench, and that extraordinary 17 minutes watched by 100 million globally. They’ll get to you when they can.
Serena Williams: “I honestly never thought I would be playing at my age. I mean, I don’t quite look 39. But yeah I don’t know when it’s going to stop for me. I just have fun. When I feel it’s over, it’s over. But I could have guaranteed and pretty much bet my life that I would not have been playing at 39.”
English cricketer Andrew Flintoff opening up about his long struggle with bulimia: “I became known as a fat cricketer. After getting nailed in the press, I thought everyone was looking at me. That was when I started doing it, being sick after meals.”
Artist Vincent Namatjira has won this year’s Archibald Prize with a portrait of himself and Adam Goodes. Namatjira is the first Indigenous artist to win in the prize’s almost 100-year history. “It only took 99 years.”
LeBron James on making the NBA finals with the LA Lakers and on his journey: “Right now, it don’t mean s— unless I get it done. I got to get it done . . . I just want to travel my own journey because it is my journey. I’ve appreciated everything that’s happened along the way. I mean, throughout the ups, the downs, the ups on the court, the downs on the court, the wins and losses. But I’ve been able to, I guess as Frank Sinatra would say, ‘I did it my way’.”
Sonny Bill Williams on the Roosters copping 60 points at the hands of the Rabbitohs: “We didn’t just let the boys down [last Friday night], we let everyone in the club down.” Sonny Bill? You blokes let yourselves down.
Famed former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana after he and his wife confronted an intruder at their home who had snatched their grand-daughter from her cot: “Thank you to everyone who has reached out. Scary situation, but thankful that everybody is doing well. We appreciate respect for our privacy at this time.”
Panthers star five-eighth Jarome Luai, pays his dues: “Benji [Marshall] was my guy. He was my go to. The first game of footy I watched was the ’05 grand final. I still remember it. We were camping away with the family, and the guys next to us brought a TV with them. They were Tigers fans and it rubbed off on me. It’s my first ever memory of rugby league.”
Parramatta Eel Dylan Brown as he’s recovering from injury: “It’s rugby league, you don’t want to be coming in half-hearted. As nice as everyone is, everyone has got a heart, but if you’re injured they will target it.” Nup. And I read it three times.
Mats Wilander on Andy Murray taking a wildcard at the French Open: “Is it his right to be out there doing that? Why? I did it [took late-career wildcards at the expense of young contenders] and I shouldn’t have. It was the biggest mistake I [made] in my career.”
Team of the Week
Australian women’s cricket team. Start their one-day international series against their Kiwi counterparts on Saturday, for the Rose Bowl.
Serena Williams. Yes, there might be a plague asterisk, but this is the first year since 2006 that the American champion hasn’t made a grand slam final.
Jack Jumpers. The name of the new Tasmanian NBL team. Kudos to them for not picking a focus-grouped American name like “Raiders,” “Cowboys” or “Titans”. And all credit to the NBL for bringing back a Tassie team.
Buddy Franklin. Just finished year seven of his nine-season Swans deal without kicking a ball in anger. Did I tell yers, or did I tell yers, that the deal was going to look a tad grim in the twilight?
Kevin Walters. New coach of the Broncos.
RIP Chris Hawkins. The well-known, one-time Shore teacher, Australian Schoolboys, Gordon Rugby Club and Waratahs coach passed away on Thursday morning after a long battle with cancer. Vale, Chris.
Peter FitzSimons is a journalist and columnist with The Sydney Morning Herald.