The Cronulla centre is a divisive figure. (Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
The Cronulla centre is a divisive figure. (Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Kent: Players must make the game positive

JOSH Dugan bared his wounds on Tuesday. Real or imagined, ill-deserved or self-inflicted, the debate will begin.

Dugan's press conference was stunning and uncomfortable and provocative.

Nobody was ready for it and few were ready to deal with it.

His voice choked and tears welled as he spoke of the consequences of misunderstandings.

This has been building in Dugan for some time. (Fox Sports)
This has been building in Dugan for some time. (Fox Sports)

"I think I have been a target since 2013," he said. "And I can't see that changing."

Dugan's timeline is clear because the moment was simple.

"That's when I got sacked from Canberra," he said.

"Everyone is going to have their opinion ever since then, it's never going to change.

"It doesn't matter how much stuff I do outside of footy …"

Dugan is clearly affected and there will be much public sympathy with him, not all unjustified.

The other reality is you receive negative media attention when you create negative media attention.

He was sacked from Canberra in 2013 because he refused to go to training, preferring to sit on a rooftop with teammate Blake Ferguson drinking Bacardi Breezers.

Since he got sacked in 2013 he has turned up to one Origin camp drunk and left another, midway through, to get drunk.

This year he was kicked out of an RSL club for swearing and then last month began dropping F-bombs at regular intervals on a podcast as he took aim at the media and their treatment of him.

 

Dugan can’t escape this image from his past.
Dugan can’t escape this image from his past.

You could argue he could have used his time better then to change the perception about him.

Meanwhile, the Sharks are still looking to sign a major sponsor for next season.

Image matters, and not just in the NRL.

Some years back San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick protested black deaths in custody by taking a knee during the national anthem before games.

The 49ers later sacked him. No other NFL team has signed him.

Nike has featured Kaepernick in its new commercial to kick off the NFL season.

The ad has sparked protests across the country and Nike has wiped about $5 billion off its share price as a result as Nike owners burn their Air Jordans and Nike T-shirts.

Earlier this year AFL legend Barry Hall made one off-colour remark on radio. He did not survive beyond the next ad break and has basically been unemployable since.

Rightly or wrongly, image matters.

And like character it has to be lived every day. Image, like character, is the accumulation of action.

Dugan struck up a special bond with Gabe Smith who died from cancer.
Dugan struck up a special bond with Gabe Smith who died from cancer.

"When is there positive stories?" he asked.

"I could show you a few," a journalist said.

"There's a few," he smiled. "There's probably one every couple of months but other than that I think negativity sells papers."

There was 25 stories in Sydney's three metropolitan papers on Tuesday. Only three could be regarded as negative. Two were on small Sydney finals crowds and the other was Andrew Gee's appearance in Brisbane's coaches box.

The rest celebrated the game. Positive stories outweigh the negative every day.

NRL boss Todd Greenberg began all this in April when he went on a Twitter rant to rage against the "crisis merchants" covering the game.

It was as irresponsible as it was juvenile from the game's boss.

Greenberg created a convenient narrative for players to deflect from their own behaviour, enabling them to dismiss any criticism, and as little as there is, as the rantings of a negative media.

It suited both the disillusioned and the deluded. A point proven when the media focus shifted from criticism of the NRL to clubland and, suddenly, the NRL went quiet, happy to be out of the crosshairs.

News is news and it is measured by the level of public interest.

Players have never been less educated about the media and how to use it.

It is a position driven by coaches, encouraged by enablers, and tolerated by administrators. It is spawned from the old school mentality of not providing motivation to this weekend's opponent so be careful what you say to the media and don't trust them to report it.

It has since grown into something entirely unhealthy for players and, as such, the game.

It is self-fulfilling and, ultimately, ruinous.

 

Dugan kept Gabe Smith as his inspiration.
Dugan kept Gabe Smith as his inspiration.

Dugan asked where the feel-good stories were.

The feel-good stories are harder to find because they are harder to extract from players who mostly do all their media now in sterile, formal manners.

The pity being they are out there.

"I raised over 15 grand for a young boy not that long ago," Dugan said. His voice choked at the memory of what he said next.

"I visited him in hospital. He passed away …

"You don't hear about that. It's only the bad side for me, so I'm used to it."

It is tragic and part of the game's tapestry.

Who was this boy? What was his story?

Dugan recently completed a diploma in community and social work, and hopes to continue on there when his career is done.

Where was the NRL and its multimillion-dollar propaganda arm? The Sharks own media unit?

Who does Dugan talk to when he has something positive to say?

You cannot write what you do not know.

 

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