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Todd Carney fiasco: Does rugby league do enough to protect players' welfare?

"Help him mate, don't kill him".

That plea for Todd Carney's welfare didn't come from his manager David Riolo, outspoken supporter Andrew Johns or any of the sacked Cronulla five-eighth's mates in the game, but from a senior sports administrator with a knowledge of how NRL clubs operate.

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The person who took a compromising photo of Todd Carney at a urinal has told the player's agent, David Riolo, that he did not upload the photo to the net.

"I look forward to someone digging up the facts surrounding what each of Todd Carney's respective clubs have done for him in regards to his welfare and development," he wrote in an email to this column on Monday, after the Sharks became the third NRL club to sack Carney for alcohol-related offences.

"Have they stood by him? Most likely. The question I ask is, what does 'stood by him' mean? I would imagine it means that they knew he was going off the rails and didn't tell anyone about it whilst subsequently telling him to pull his head in."

The truth is, the Sharks could have sacked Carney at any time because he was on a contract with a "no second chance" clause, Riolo says, and it is now widely acknowledged he had given them the opportunity to do so on more than one occasion this season.

But once the photo – taken by a so-called "mate" – of Carney urinating towards his mouth began to spread like wildfire on social media late on Saturday, Cronulla directors acted so quickly that even the NRL seemed to be taken by surprise; head of football Todd Greenberg said on Sunday afternoon that he expected discussions with the Sharks to continue that night and on Monday.


Riolo believes the Sharks acted too hastily and has revealed that he suggested the club impose a $200,000 fine and suspend him from playing for six months.

"Most people would think that would be excessive for this, but that wasn't even looked at," Riolo told Fairfax Radio on Monday.

"There are other players who have had serious charges against them for physical assaults and the assault of women and things like that, but who has Todd Carney hurt besides himself and maybe muddied the waters for Cronulla with their sponsors?

"I am not trying to defend him in any way, shape or form, but he has been hung, drawn and quartered within a day and without a fair hearing, I believe, and without the opportunity to at least front the board, I don't think due process has been followed, and I feel for the kid.

"Cronulla is struggling at the moment, they have got a skeletal staff, they are not well resourced, they are not well organised, they don't have a major sponsor, they are struggling on and off the field with this ASADA investigation hanging over their head, their welfare isn't great and I think they cracked. If he had been at another club, would he have been sacked? I don't think so."

Riolo, who said the photo was a "set-up" and had not been seen by Carney until it began circulating, acknowledged that the former Raiders and Roosters star was "a grown man who should have known better" than to put himself in the position he did and who "probably hasn't heeded the warnings enough" from his past indiscretions.

However, there are also genuine fears about what will become of Carney without football and the official questioned in his email whether the game was doing enough to help players who may have mental health problems.

"What has the game or his respective clubs done for him in regards to this, other than to tell him how lucky he is to be playing professional footy?" he wrote.

"I don't believe that a single NRL club has a human resources department, and the player welfare departments are more box-ticking areas and can't be compared to those at AFL clubs.

"His feelings of self-worth right now would be rock-bottom and if combined with people turning their backs on him, it could be a fatal storm. It is crucial that he has appropriate support mechanisms around him, or the consequences could be dire."


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