NRL 2012: yep, it’s back…

You know rugby league is back when a whitegoods scandal involving a flavoured milk sponsor threatens to distress the delicate fabrics of the game. For those who missed it, the big news off the field last week came from the Penrith club tuckshop – when the club chose to use a fridge full of Oak milk as the backdrop for their post-match press conference.

The promotional display is said to have infuriated the game’s major sponsor, Telstra, with NRL CEO David Gallop demanding the fridge be removed for all future post-match press conferences. Penrith head honcho Phil ‘Gus’ Gould has since refused, and the fridge is now under 24-7 E-Group Security guard. The saga, which some clever scribes have dubbed “Fridge-Gate”, is the second fridge related controversy this year, following the ugly Peter Peters Fridge scandal.

Does this look like a bloke who would steal a fridge?

You have to hand it to Gus, not only has he got everyone talking about the club’s major sponsor/bogan darling milk drink, Oak, but he also managed to slip in a cheeky plug for the club’s security firm, which sponsors no less than five NRL teams. Gould’s penchant for continually referring to ‘The Sanyo Panthers’ during Channel 9 commentary  may catch on yet again, but I’m not convinced that ‘The Oak Panthers’ has quite the same ring to it.

Incidentally, #OakPanthers is now the most regularly used twitter tag for Panthers fans and players. Who would have thought strawberry milk would ever become a contentious Rugby League issue?

Speaking of fruity flavours, the other off-field banter from last week centred on veteran NRL referee Matt Cecchin, who officially came out of the closet via a tell-all tabloid Herald Sun article (insert incredibly obvious joke about pink jersey here: __________). [Ed: Revealing one’s preference for the male species in such a testosterone-fuelled environment takes some courage – however, the announcement has certainly deflected the fact that he’s a rubbish referee with an obvious grudge against the Canberra Raiders.]

Obligatory 'candid' tabloid shot

Not to be outdone, Victorian premier and Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett swiftly announced that at least 5% of AFL players are gay. Hearing Kennett’s explosive and utterly baseless claim I couldn’t help but envisage GWS coach Kevin Sheedy sitting atop a luxury cruiser, surrounded by oiled-up scantily-clad AFL players, Rene Rivkin/Gordon Wood-style. Truly the stuff of Tommy Raudonikis’ nightmares.

But could there really be a hidden 5% of gay men in the AFL? And how many in the NRL are waiting to jump from the closet when they finish up their career? Cecchin, in all honesty, has laid the ground work for these players to come out. Who knows, in years to come we may see the NRL All Stars vs the NRL All Gays played out in some regional stadium.  Some blokes might even have to make the tough personal call on which team to represent.

By Luke Meredith

Clive Palmer Earns Coveted Guildford Award

Unbelievably, for the third month in a row, a figure from the world of football has taken out The Public Apology’s coveted prize for scandal.  That said, it is the world game, so it stands to reason there is a greater pool of potential tomfoolery. But one can’t help be bitterly disappointed in the other codes – especially the NRL, which in 2011 was responsible for more drunken incidents than the entire population of Luxembourg.

Still you can’t say this month’s winner isn’t deserving. Making powerful enemies left right and centre, mining magnate Clive Palmer takes out our February Guildford for trying his darnedest to be both physically and metaphorically bigger than the game.

A walking cliché of the Obese White Capitalist, as a youth Palmer no doubt empathised with Australian 1970s icon ‘Fat Cat’ as he watched Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers and violated an enormous bowl of Doritos. This month saw him embroiled in an ongoing battle with Football Federation Australia that eventually resulted in the stripping of his A-League licence – leaving the future of Gold Coast United as bleak as, well, every other previous Gold Coast franchise.

Fat Cat, chillin’ with his homies

After labelling FFA chief Frank Lowy a ‘dictator’ and threatening to stuff a potato in the exhaust of his BMW S-Series, Palmer has set up a renegade footballing body, Football Australia (FA), to keep the FFA in check. [NB: BMW executives have told The Public Apology that the S-Series does in fact include a potato resistant exhaust; however, given there about five thousand potato varieties worldwide, it’s likely a man with such extensive wealth as Palmer could source one capable of outfoxing the savvy German engineers.]

The FA will no doubt prove as effective as a Kirstie Alley seduction attempt, with all but one of Palmer’s players turning their back on him (a no-named aging defender has signed on as “Player Relations Manager” [to what players? Who knows…]). Either way, you have to admire the man’s complete refusal to back down or admit that he may have ever been slightly in the wrong.

Alley, seduction attempts on certain TPA reporters have failed

Not content with only angering football’s powers that be, Palmer decided to also piss off the federal government by claiming he has “no public responsibility whatsoever,” despite making billions of dollars off the country’s own resources. Then, just last week, he was proclaimed a “National Living Treasure” along with six others, including sexy little songstress Kylie Minogue and, ironically, renowned conservationist Dr Harry Butler.  Ian Carroll, from the National Trust of Australia (NSW), said the group was chosen because they “personified qualities all Australians should aspire to.”

So we should all be greedy, stubborn and arrogant? Well yes, according to the NLT panel of judges. And with that in mind, The Public Apology is proud to present Clive Palmer with this month’s Guildford Award – for proving once and for all that money can buy you love, happiness and nationwide respect. And a Guildford Award.

By Al McClintock