Bobby Sands was a leader from Northern Ireland during a period of great conflict and uncertainty, otherwise known as the Troubles.
Robbie Farah is a leader from the Wests Tigers during a period of great conflict and uncertainty, otherwise known as Troubling Times in Tigertown.
Many people will think that likening Farah, a rugby league hooker from Leichhardt with Sands, one of the greatest symbols of political martyrdom and bravery of the past century, is a bit of a stretch. It may even be called inappropriate, but hear me out.
Both men fought/are fighting noble causes, with Sands sacrificing his life in pursuit of Irish republicanism, and Farah trying to carry his young Tigers side into the NRL finals for the first time since 2011.
Both men are local heroes. Sands achieved cult-like status for his election to British Parliament, hungerstrike and subsequent death which drew international attention to the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. On the other hand, Farah is a homegrown Tiger junior turned club captain, who helped win the club their first premiership in 2005 and has been the team’s most consistent player for the best part of a decade.
The similarities may appear trite on first glance, but when you consider the vilification both figures have received in the media, the experiences of Farah and Sands aren’t too dissimilar.
For the past few weeks Robbie Farah has been persecuted in the media in a campaign driven by dark, nefarious forces. He has been used as the fall guy, accused of being the driving force behind a plan to axe the coach or the CEO, or both. Despite consistent denials, Farah is continually blamed by the media for causing instability within the club – while any cursory glance at the facts will show he has done very little to (intentionally) promote disharmony. Rather, he is being used as a pawn in a game being played by people higher up the food chain (note: possibly the rugby league illuminati) to pursue some darker, sinister motive.
Sands faced similar persecution by the British media. He was labelled a criminal and a terrorist and his actions were condemned by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the British/Protestant political class and Fleet Street papers. His hunger strike was reported with astonishment and derision, and his death was celebrated. The Daily Mail accused him of “moral fraud”, the Mirror said “it was a pathetic end for a man” and the Express claimed “Sands will no victory in the grave… the Shadow of Bobby Sands will pass”.
Of course, the papers were wrong. Sands’ shadow did not pass. In anything, his legend grew and his cause was given even greater international attention following his death. Indeed, to this day, Bobby Sands’ face can been seen plastered on murals across Northern Ireland.
In the case of Robbie Farah, the papers are wrong again. He is not a villain. He is a hero that has been reported in the wrong light. And like Bobbie Sands, Robbie Farah’s actions will be vindicated with the passing of time. And when he finally gets his boyhood team to the summit of the NRL top-eight, perhaps one day his face will be found painted on walls across Balmain, Annandale and Rozelle.
By Ben Shine