As wonderful a quality as loyalty is in sport and work, it should never be blind, writes Greg Cary.

Greg Cary

Greg Cary

Sports writer

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As the new league season begins attention remains diverted from on-field action by a variety of issues, chief amongst them questions of loyalty and the on-going ASADA investigation.

Before the first whistle sounded Souths’ Sam Burgess announced he’ll be playing Union next year. Sonny Bill had expressed similar intent.

It is reported that Matthew Johns took Burgess aside and told him “to make all you can out of the game because all clubs are loyal to you when you are at your peak, but when you start to slow down…they’ll start treating you like you’ve got bubonic plague.”

Immediately after round one Cronulla’s Andrew Fifita confirmed that he would be playing with The Bulldogs next year. Straws and camels came to mind. How much can long-suffering fans take before they decide that loyalty should be a two way street?

Cameron Smith meantime, after a choreographed contractual dance, decided he was staying with Melbourne. Strike one up for loyalty - and an offer that made it possible.

As wonderful a quality as loyalty is, it should never be blind and increasingly, players are showing their lack of faith in clubs and the game itself. Let’s face it, the difference between Fifita getting $700,000 a year at Cronulla as opposed to $750,000 at Canterbury is not a deal maker or breaker. He won’t be queuing in a bread-line anytime soon.

It gets to matters that many of us confront during our careers. Do we like and respect our employers? Is my career best served by staying or going? Am I happy? Do we trust their appeal to loyalty?

Cronulla has been a basket case for some time so why stay at a club that has not met their duty of care in so many fundamental ways? There is a mutual obligation in all of this.

Just a few years ago Melbourne players who signed contracts in good faith, had premierships stripped because of the actions of management. That so many of them remained loyal to the club speaks volumes for Coach Bellamy and the band of brothers who have thrived under his guidance.

At the highest level the NRL continues to hand over TV rights without an assurance that all key games will be broadcast live. Money-1: fans and loyalty-0. And as supporters continue to buy tickets, the game has suffered for more than a year under the cloud of suspicions related to peptides usage.

When former Federal Minister Jason Clare declared it the “darkest day in Australian Sport” most thought because of the involvement of the Australian Crime Commission, we would hear about criminal involvement in gambling, and more.

So far we have people suspended for not having or not following protocols. There’s no suggestion of deliberate cheating. Darkest day? Hardly.

As I write, the man at the centre of all of this, Stephen Dank, has been asked by ASADA to show cause related to 34 breaches of the anti-doping laws. Why has it taken so long? If they knew enough to talk about “darkest days” a year ago, surely they had information…time to see it.

The greatest challenge confronting all professional sport is gambling and its potential to ensnare and corrupt players. More on that another day. Throughout all of this the fans have remained loyal. So far.