Exorcising the devil in the Saints
St Kilda, you’ve done it again. After escaping to New Zealand to train in peace after the shocking, dragged-out nude photo-schoolgirl scandal, a group of Saints have disgraced themselves.
Alcohol, drugs and late nights are often on the agenda of young people wanting to have fun. It acts as a form of escapism, as the youths unwittingly rebel against strict team rules, in the case of the four St Kilda bad boys. They’ve been like naughty boys on school camp, rather than a bunch of committed, professional athletes.
What was Zac Dawson thinking? After being caught in an embarrassing photo with a fully naked Nick Reiwoldt (Dawson’s skipper, mind you), Dawson, 24, got up to strife with three younger players - Rhys Stanley, Jack Steven and Paul Cahill. The players have been disciplined, including a six-week ban and a hefty fine each - but they have dented their reputations.
After the St Kilda schoolgirl fiasco broke last year, I warned the AFL community of potential hazards, as players fall for the trappings of a privileged like, including hard partying. Alcohol, drugs and girls – a potent mix that is potentially career-ending.
AFL players have been humiliated through the press, mostly because they make terrible decisions. Call it karma. Call it “what goes around comes around”. Were the players asking for it? Yes. They were naughty. Devilish.
All these issues have an over-riding theme - human weakness. For the players to change this behaviour, they need to identify their weaknesses. The four Saints will undergo counselling.
Will the Saints’ disciplinary action help these footballers? The players in strife need to work at turning their weaknesses into their strengths. Can the players stay off alcohol? Can they entertain people in the community rather than entertaining themselves?
People will often fail before they succeed. They will make bad decisions which impacts on their lives. But the question is: can these players overcome these issues and fire up on the footy field? Will it fuel them into positive action?
St Kilda has acted the best way it knows how in managing off-field incidents. But are the club’s actions really working? Will the embarrassing events of the past year fire up the club and lead them to another Grand Final berth?
The players under scrutiny will be tested in difficult situations this year, particularly with the inevitable sledging from opponents and footy fans. The pressure-cooker world of AFL will test their character in extreme situations. Are they up for the fight?
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