Wests Tigers skipper Robbie Farah has received a harsh lesson in the use and abuse of the media, and ended up needing professional help and being at loggerheads with the man who is supposed to help him through tough times – club boss Grant Mayer.
Frankly, both coach Mick Potter and team captain Farah would be justified in feeling betrayed and entitled to ask why Mayer is still rolling into work, collecting a pay cheque. If Farah chose to, he could help jettison Mayer from his position.
Then there are the questionable actions of Gorden Tallis, rugby league’s most forthright critic. In this column’s opinion, Tallis was nearly honourable compared to what Farah’s own club did.
Let’s start with Tallis. What he did was wrong from a journalist’s point of view. But Tallis will always be able to say that he doesn’t operate under the rules of a journalist.
He is a hired gun with contracts and says the only thing he is interested in is the truth. That’s how I’ve always found Tallis. But he needs to consider two important points:
1. How would he feel if a player such as Farah flipped on him and started blurting out private conversations? How would that affect him professionally and personally? Tallis and I had an off-the-record chat this week and that’s how it will remain – at least from my end – but there won’t be too many NRL players who will stop for a chin wag with Gorden. But you know what? He may not care.
2. The whole basis of Tallis’ attack on Farah, and what his many supporters have brought up, is that ‘‘Gorden was cornered’’. It was being alleged that Tallis was undermining Potter as coach. Tallis says he only dumped Farah in it because he was being questioned about the source of his story. But what has been ignored is that Tallis started his attack on Farah long before he was ‘‘cornered’’. He dumped Farah’s name out there on Triple M on Friday night.
There was no need for him to do it ... but given he is a man of truth, he went ahead. This started off a chain reaction which left Farah in a state that he has described to mates ‘‘as a shattered mess’’. It was so bad that on Tuesday Farah went missing. His family, friends and agent could not reach him and were extremely concerned for his well-being. Farah needed professional help and was advised he should not be at training on Wednesday. This was not up for negotiation; it was medical advice.
Now Tallis has promised he has finished defending his comments, which were based on a 15-month-old conversation which Farah says he can’t remember, at least not with the same clarity as Tallis can.
I’m certain Tallis is not making up that Farah was disgruntled. Most players would be when their team has lost a stack of games and a star player – in this instance, Benji Marshall – is being squeezed out.
What I find hard to swallow is that Tallis’ revelation was made to appear relevant to what is going on at the Tigers now, when the comments were made more than a year ago.
As Tallis’ comments were gaining momentum on Friday night, a fuming Farah contacted his boss, Mayer. He made a strong request for Mayer to come out and back him and the other players in the media. Mayer did nothing. But that was as a blessing compared to what was about to be delivered.
On Saturday Farah came out in praise of the embattled Potter in an all-in media conference. Five minutes into the six-minute media conference, Farah heaped praise on the coach.
Those comments were edited out before Farah was quoted on the Tigers website. I learned about it and phoned the Tigers media department, speaking with their two most senior operators. I was told the comments were left out due to time restrictions and because Farah had already made reference to how well Potter was going earlier in the media conference. ‘‘He was repeating himself,’’ was the line. That is incorrect. I then pressed them about Mayer’s involvement.
They protected their boss and said he had nothing to do with it. It’s as if Mayer has expanded his portfolio of CEO to include a role as head of the Tigers’ Thought Police. It seems he wanted to ensure some of the comments were not there.
Worse than that, he privately praised Farah for the comments he made in the media conference until he began commending Potter.
Mayer then told the captain of the club those comments would never be seen on the club’s website. What’s worse is those comments from Mayer suggest he did not want the captain of his club to be seen to be praising the coach. It does not get much worse than that for a club boss.
This backs up other information that the Tigers players have been told not to come out in strong support of the coach. And it is in this atmosphere that Farah is getting the blame as the architect of Potter’s demise.
It was not Farah who leaked a story to News Ltd that Potter was going to be sacked. Farah and the players know who it was. So does this columnist.
What also has not received enough exposure is that Farah told Mayer he did not want to be part of the Brian Smith review into Potter for this exact reason: that it would be seen as a player-led sacking.
Farah has told Potter he should know the review was put in place as a means to exit him from the club. The Tigers captain was the final person Smith talked to because he was away with the Origin side.
When it came time to talk to Smith, Farah made the point that he was reluctant and that this should be a management issue.
Anything Farah contributed had already been covered off and on by all of those who had talked before him.
The club’s manoeuvring suggests it has a ready-made replacement for Potter. The man Mayer had been grooming is David Kidwell, one of Potter’s assistants.
There has been speculation that Potter’s other assistant, Todd Payten, was a candidate but he has been told to look elsewhere for a job.
Players want Carney back
He is persona non grata as far as the NRL is concerned — but the majority of NRL players want Todd Carney back. The Rugby League Week exclusive Players’ Poll — out next Thursday — reveals a stunning 78 per cent of players believe Carney is worth another chance. More than half the 100 players polled also believe Carney should never have been sacked over the ‘‘bubbler’’ incident in the first place. The players are also convinced Manly will be this year’s premiers. In a startling result, 65 of the 100 reckon the Sea Eagles will win this year’s grand final.
Garie Dooley’s name will not appear in the record books when the ending of the Queensland Origin reign is recorded – but NSW’s players and management owe him plenty of thanks. Dooley, who runs the company Standout Advantage, was employed by the Blues as part of their quest to finally win an Origin series. It was at his suggestion that the Blues adopted their clean-skin approach – best demonstrated by the non-selection ofMitchell Pearce when he had his dramas. Dooley is best described as a team leadership expert and until now has kept quiet about his role. “Laurie Daley and his management team came to me last October and we had a meeting,’’ he said. ‘‘The initial thing we had to agree on that there was a need to change and they said there was. They could have adopted the approach that the Queensland stars were getting older and that things would naturally turn around, but they did not have that belief. The attitude and approach was that we had to take control of the situation the team was in and that ‘hope’ is not a strategy. When we sat down the main messages we talked about was that behaviour drives results, not just skill level. What is important is choices of behaviour, not necessarily the ability to play. When it came to ‘bad boys’, we simply talked about which behaviour is acceptable.” Dooley said he had sessions with the team and with individuals. ‘‘The first thing the team had to decide, is ‘why are we here? And what’s our purpose?’ We established what we did well and what we were accountable for and most importantly what we stand for.” Dooley said a key was getting Paul Gallen to buy in. “Paul wasn’t sceptical, but he did take time to observe what we were doing,” he said. “He’s been around for a long time and he’s seen ideas come and go. Plus he is a leader who uses his actions not words ... but he watched and he got involved with what we were doing and that was a key.”
SBW’s TV cameo
He’s the highest-profile player in the NRL, but Sonny Bill Williams has kept the lowest of profiles this year. He’s done just a handful of interviews and appeared at only one all-in media conference. But he will be co-hosting The Footy Show on Thursday night.
Ian Thorpe gave the Ten Network great value with his tell-all interview – it was money well spent. They must be questioning his value as a commentator and interviewer though – a $400,000 outlay for someone who is clearly uncomfortable in his role. His interview with James Magnussen was as bad as it gets. Sadly, his comments are flat and not insightful. His description of the Commonwealth Games as a great warm-up for the PanPacs must have left his bosses scratching their heads.