The two men of the moment (no, not Gordy and Paul) couldn’t be more different. Yet, they have been thrust together by misfortune, misdeed and happenstance in a way that neither of them would have preferred.
James Tamou is the Cowboys, NSW and Australian footballing star of unquestionable physical attributes (though some did question it over Twitter only recently). David Smith is merely an administrator of untested physical prowess, who is trying valiantly to add ballast to one side of the NRL ship, hoping to balance out the apparent subversive attempts of the fifth columnists of the game – the players themselves!
James Tamou has broken team protocol before, and did so again on the weekend. In a team environment, that’s a fairly serious breach.
Of more import, however, is the breach of the actual law. By driving unlicensed with a skinfull of p.ss under the belt (hey, I can talk in clichés until the cows come home), he endangered his own life, as well as others within the car and outside of it.
Sure, that didn’t happen – he was stopped first.
Sure, there are no kiddies bolting about at 3:30am – even in Townsville – but there are a bunch of equally inebriated souls who have made the right choice and fish-tailed their way home on foot.
And sure, even the country’s finest are not immune to bad choices.
However, road statistics show that driving when you can’t even walk straight tend not to mix very well.
Footballers give us all a lot of enjoyment, but they aren’t masters of the universe as far as I can tell and are not indestructible.
Failure to stand himself down voluntarily is a failure of judgement, though primarily of his own management team. I wouldn’t have expected this to be the first thing he thought about once busted (though it would’ve been nice), but his manager should have. For mine, there are too many managers letting their players down (with notable exceptions of course).
Aside from the harm that could’ve been caused, the bigger issues in this episode range from (I know, I know) the concept of being a role model, as well as the concepts of personal and team brands. This is a fairly serious issue for the Cowboys and their sponsors. After all, there’s only so much you can take.
I’ve written before that sponsors ‘staying the course’ with a team in trouble says a lot about them and their own personal and business ethics, but there is a point where even this can be tested. As Parramatta are now fully aware, it’s about attitude.
So, is the penalty of $20,000 and a two match suspension a little harsh, particularly when one of those matches would be Origin 2, which itself generates a $30,000 windfall?
It represented a personal shot over the NRL bow by the CEO himself and highlights, if it needed to be yet again, that the NRL is a business and brand that is being tarnished from within. I applaud David Smith’s statement.
Further, missing Origin 2 doesn’t make him ‘out of pocket’. Playing in a representative match is an honour that is earned. It is not a right. He should count himself lucky to have been picked in the first match and pocketed the cash, because his form prior and during the game didn’t warrant being picked. $30,000 for reputation is pretty good, no?
Let’s put this into some more perspective …
As the media note, he is likely to augment his very rich contract with almost $200,000 of representative earnings this year as well. He would do well to remember that players are contractors, not full-time employees, and that anything can happen once those contracts expire … or before, as the case may be.
Once back in the real world where most people don’t earn $600,000-$700,000 a year for lugging a football up the field, he would find, as the Employment data show us, that job security ain’t so great, nor is the labour market itself. Check out what the NRL fan faces daily on a fraction of James’ salary:
Cometh the hour, cometh the man …
As for David Smith, I wished him well with his investment bank silo approach to management even if I was cheeky about it. And I meant it.
Part of managing effectively is delegating responsibilities. Even more important is understanding that you don’t know everything, and the knowledge gaps can be considerable (all hail the appointment of Todd Greenberg). It’s almost Donald Rumsfeld-ian in a way with unknown unknowns, though everything was a mystery to him!
The initial concern that he didn’t know much about rugby league have now been mitigated somewhat, though I did worry early also that, as a newbie, no one ‘had his back’. He had no pre-existing relationships to lean on and be supported by.
He has learned to navigate this very quickly, and I’m quietly excited that he is not actually beholden to any special or vested interests. This means he can make hard decisions without fear or favour.
He’s even making up for the City-Country gaffe by clawing the money back – from the players! Memo Packer, Tamou et al, there’s a sherriff in town that wants to take the NRL to the next level, and you’re not going to stop him!
I’m enjoying this.
Next cab off the rank … referees! Watch your back, jack!