Former NSW Origin and Australian player Craig Wing says it’s only natural that NRL stars begin mixing with “undesirables”.
Wing, who played 256 games for South Sydney and the Sydney Roosters in his 12-year NRL career, believes that a footballer’s lifestyle naturally leads them to meeting the kinds of colourful figures who are alleged to have infiltrated NRL players lives this year.
In a column for sports website The Roar, Wing explained that any NRL player’s schedule led to a cramped social life that gives the likes of characters spotted with Corey Norman, James Segeyaro, Junior Paulo and Jarryd Hayne this year better access to players than the general public.
“Go to the pub or club and people want to chew your ear off about the game or about footy,” Wing wrote.
“The reason you’re there in the first place is to get away from exactly that.
“Or, someone comes up to the team, asks if you’d like a separate area, free drinks to get you started, and the ability to ask any girl you’d like to hang out with you.
“When someone who owns or helps run a club offers you free drinks and a free private area, you are very thankful to that person for doing you a favour.”
Wing points out that while players are recommended to move into private areas by their clubs, it can also be fraught with danger.
“Drugs, criminal figures and nightclubs are all intrinsically linked, they always have been,” Wing wrote.
“If you don’t think that 70 per cent of people in that club knows someone that has some connection with the drug scene then you have your head in the sand.
“Chances are the person organising your area, with your free drinks and facilitating you talking to beautiful women, also has some connection to that.”
From there, Wing says they naturally become friends, and players can’t be expected to do a background check on everyone they meet.
“These people offer players a sanctuary. They become associated with a good time. They become a ‘mate’.
“They’re not hurting anyone, or doing any drugs.
“That’s how it starts.”
Meanwhile Wing said Andrew Fifita had a right to visit long-time friend and one-punch killer Kieran Loveridge in prison, but should not publicly support him via writing on his wristband.