Tim Simona’s future could be decided as soon as this week, when he fronts the NRL integrity unit to answer the allegations that he placed bets on players he was marking to score a try against his team.
It is alleged that wagers as little as $10, in a betting account that is not in Simona’s name, had been placed.
There is no doubt that a mistake and a poor decision was made, but why should you be punished for life for that one mistake?
Just last year, when Parramatta was exposed for cheating, by breaching the salary cap. NRL boss Todd Greenberg defined the situation as “a deliberate, systematic and blatant breach of the salary cap”. But yet, he still gave the Eels a lifeline even though they rorted the entire premiership. Greenberg still gave Parramatta the chance to make the finals. Greenberg took a strong stance on the Eels by stripping them of points as well as a $1 million dollar fine. It was a tough punishment, but also a fair one.
But the NRL aren’t usually so smart and fair when handing punishments out to players or clubs. For example, Sandor Earl was hit with a four year ban, in opposed to 10 other NRL players who were given a backdated 12-month ban for their involvement in the Cronulla supplement saga at the end of 2011. The ban was essentially a lousy three game suspension for the players at the end of the 2014 season. The handling of the Sandor Earl situation was completely embarrassing for the game, he was hard done by, it was a total injustice for Earl. Sandor Earl will not be able to return to play in the NRL until later this year.
A lifetime ban for Simona would be the NRL’s first lifetime ban since Ryan Tandy was caught attempting a betting sting when he played for Canterbury back in 2010. Unfortunately, the Ryan Tandy incident ended tragically, that no one wants to see again. The NRL needs to not only give Simona a fair punishment, but also give him the support that he needs. Unfortunately however, if a player is given a life ban, the NRL’s point of view is that the individual is no longer an athlete of the game. So there is no support given at all. When there is no coach or any mentor, it comes down to the individual and their own decision making, sometimes that’s flawed and sometimes that leads them into trouble because they are not in the right frame of mind.
Simona is only 25, yes, he did something wrong and did break the rules. But, with all the stupid things that players have done over the years, and only to get off lightly or get nothing at all. Why punish Tim Simona for life? Why not give him him the opportunity to redeem himself in the future? There is nothing wrong with a suspension of 18 months to three years, as well as providing the support and the counselling that he needs. Yes, you can punish him, but the NRL can also get him the help that he needs. Help get him in a clearer headspace and back to being his usual self. So that he can not only make it up to himself and the NRL, but can learn and come out a better person after this situation. Tigers players have even expressed their concern for his welfare. So, Todd Greenberg needs to find the courage to be fair in his punishment for Simona, while also caring about his wellbeing. Give him a strong punishment with support, but also give him a chance to redeem himself in the future. That would be true leadership.