Mate against mates, Johns must tell the truth

Andrew Johns”The spirit which has made Australia,” the great ABC correspondent Chester Wilmot wrote in WWII, “is the spirit which has held Tobruk.

The inspiring and binding force in Australian life isn’t tradition or nationalism or social revolution. It’s quite a simple thing. Henry Lawson called it MATESHIP . . . the spirit which makes men stick together. In Australia by sticking together, men have defied drought, bushfire and flood. In Tobruk they’ve scorned hardship, danger and death, because no Digger would ever let his cobbers down. In Tobruk for the first time in this war the Germans were thrust back by a spirit that even tanks and dive-bombers could not conquer.”

Oh, stop your sneering, trendy dickheads up the back. For it is bloody well true, and when fired up properly by an outstanding leader, the spirit of mateship really can be a binding and inspiring force, capable of holding off armies. But . . . and it is a big but . . . when misused, it can result in a godawful mess. I refer to the ASADA saga as it pertains to rugby league, and the Waterhouse/Singleton/Johns imbroglio.

In NRL circles, there is a strong view abroad, pushed by the commentators, that ASADA is the enemy in the piece, that the players have got to stick together, refuse to dob in their mates, and tell the outsidersnothing!Sorry? Can those commentators get a grip? ASADA’s sole role is to rid Australian sport of drugs, so we can have a clean competition peopled by healthy players, and they are doing their best to weed out CHEATS. That’sit!

Refusal to co-operate with that investigation, and encouraging that refusal – frequently through a misguided sense of mateship – can only result in a corruption of the sport’s soul. If you seriously love league, and you dinkum want it to be clean you have only one option: you treat ASADA as a positive agent of change, and help them. You take on the short-term pain – including if necessary, dobbing in a mate who also happens to be a CHEAT – for the long-term gain of playing in a healthy clean sport where neither your teammates or your opponents have an unnatural advantage through engaging in dangerous practices. In the miasma of conflicting loyalties, of differing consequences, history has shown that telling thetruthis always a good start to sorting things out, and at least you don’t have to lie awake at night wondering which version of the lie to tell.

Which brings us to the position of Andrew Johns giving a whole new meaning to an arena in which he has previously excelled: “Mate against Mate.” What happened last Friday week, starting in the corporate box at Brookvale Oval?

(We interrupt this column for a brief musical interlude, from Bing Crosby: “The owner told Clarence the Clocker, the Clocker told Jockey Magee, the jockey, of course, passed it on to the horse, and the horse told me . . .” We now return to normal programming.)

There are two broad scenarios:

1.Andrew Johns’ mate, Tom Waterhouse, told the Immortal footballer, as a “mate”, that More Joyous, was “off”. Tom denies telling Johns anything like this but, hey, this is only a scenario. Johns, is so stunned by the news he tells his other mates, Eddie Hayson and Allan Robinson, and finally calls his most powerful mate of all, John Singleton, who, as we knows goes ballistic, most particularly when More Joyous runs like the horse that you and I always get in the Melbourne Cup sweep – coming second-last by a long stretch, the worst performance of its career.

2.Tom Waterhouse told Andrew Johns no such thing. With no inside knowledge whatsoever from his mother Gai, he merely offered an opinion that he wasn’t convinced that More Joyous was good value, and Johns got the wrong end of the stick. From there he “embellished” his remark and told Singleton things he knew not to be true. He even went so far as to “mis-speak” on Sunday morning, when he told the Sunday morning sports panel on Channel Nine that Tom Waterhouse had told him the horse was “off”. Under this scenario it is merely a stupendous coincidence that the horse ran as if it really was “off”. But ultimately, the whole thing is Johns’ fault, as he has repeated falsehoods that have placed him right in the middle of a mate minefield, with one wrong step in any direction threatening to blow up, first a friendship, and secondly – by his own claim, strongly denied by the network – his professional livelihood with Channel Nine.

Which of these two options is correct? I don’t know. But that Johns is right in the middle of the mate minefield is entirely beyond dispute. The fact that he didn’t want to make a step anywhere was evidenced by his statement on Monday, declining to appear before the tribunal even as he scrambled to do anything but incriminateanyone.

But now fuelled by SOMEONE telling massive lies – we just don’t know who – the pressure has inevitably risen to the point that he is going to appear. And he can’t just stand still. As noted by one commentator yesterday, who is close to Johns, “Whatever he says he is going to anger one of his mates.” Exactly.

So how does he get out of it?

It is very simple Andrew. Just tell the truth, in every tiny detail. Word for word, whathappened. Without fear or favour, step by step, say what happened, and don’t leave anything out – the truth will set you free. No, you won’t come out with your mateship intact, but that is gone anyway. And at least you will regain respect for the fact that – as in days of yore – you are made for the big occasion, that when the whole thing is going to hell in a handcart, you are the one to look to, to triumph in the end. Just tell the truth. Do it.

Twitter – @Peter_Fitz


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