REGULAR readers of this column should have no reservations about my abhorrence to players who sully the name and image of the greatest game of all.
They are, in simple terms, gilt-edged boofheads.
Billy Slater, however, is not one of them. Quite the opposite in fact.
Apart from a couple of on-field incidents which merely enforced his competitive nature, the Dally M and Clive Churchill medallist and Golden Boot winner has been an ornament to the game.
Yet reports in the voracious summer media during the past week would have us believe the Kangaroos fullback is Jack the Ripper re-incarnated.
As a journo who specialises in rugby league because I truly love the game, his treatment by the media borders on the disgraceful.
Okay, Slater was probably errant, even irresponsible, to be out at a Manchester night club at 2.30am.
Sure it was the night after a game and a week before their next, but that is the only query over Slater's behaviour.
True he clocked the joker who hit him first but I defy any fit, strong, red-blooded male not to do the same.
Those who don't believe Slater was the victim should have a look at the CCTV footage of the incident. He was clearly trying to placate the guy who was apparently being a pest to all concerned.
Rightly so, Slater was cleared of any misbehaviour and not sanctioned in any way, by the law or by team management.
But yet again, the NRL was weak in not springing to his defence.
Someone in authority should have been on the front foot immediately, making it patently clear that the Kangaroos fullback was the object of the incident, not the catalyst.
That may not have nipped it in the bud but at least the public would have seen the game defending its own, and conveying leadership.
But if besmirching the good name of Slater was not enough, some sections of the media have also found a way to link the incident with the event involving teammate Josh Papalii on the first night of the tour.
I read somewhere where both instances had stained an otherwise incident-free tour.
But while Slater was a victim, Papalii was prey.
He was robbed while withdrawing money from an ATM.
I have been on a dozen overseas tours with rugby league teams and I would suggest these current tourists are angels compared to most of them.
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