By Karl deKroo
From: The Daily Telegraph
August 01, 2009
IT should be remembered as the camp to end all camps - because certainly the Queensland Origin side can never afford to have one like it again.
While the QRL's "investigation" into the build-up to Origin III returned little evidence of bad behaviour, the public perception of what unfolded sits somewhere between boys being boys and a full-blown drug and alcohol-fuelled rampage.
The truth probably sits somewhere in between.
There can be no doubt several players have done their representative futures potentially irreparable harm through their lax approach to the Suncorp Stadium "dead-rubber".
At least one player is understood to have had his card stamped "never to represent again".
Few Queensland fans would begrudge their champion team a few nights' celebration after achieving a historic four-peat of series wins.
But unsubstantiated suggestions of drug taking, albeit of a legal, home-made concoction of Stilnox sleeping tablets and the energy drink Red Bull, were beyond the pale.
As were allegations that derogatory comments had been made by a senior Maroons player towards an 18-year-old woman during a big night out, and suggestions some in the team intensified their drinking sessions closer to the game rather than cutting back.
The QRL and Maroons coach Mal Meninga have steadfastly refused to name the worst offenders, including two players who broke a team curfew and booze ban on the Sunday night before the game.
By not naming them they have sullied the reputations of 15 other innocent players and they have also allowed the perpetrators who tarnished the great Queensland Origin brand to walk away unscathed. Just how the Queensland hierarchy expects their reprimand to serve as a warning to others, when not even the club CEOs of the players involved were informed, is puzzling.
Of course "bonding" sessions have long been viewed as an important part of Origin. It is argued they are an essential tool in breaking down barriers and bringing together aggressive young athletes who spend the majority of the year ripping into each other.
But society's expectations have changed since Meninga's playing days. A group of drunken footballers out in public these days is seen as a menace, not an amusement.
The events of the past few weeks should serve as a major wake-up call for the QRL, Meninga and his off-field team,who have combined to deliver the state success beyond its wildest expectations.
The QRL remains adamant it has done everything required in its investigation into the happenings of camp three and can ultimately only act on the evidence available to it.
There is a feeling within the inner sanctum that the majority of the allegations have been driven by those south of the border looking to tear down Queensland's champion team.
But many fans and prominent rugby league figures have questioned the lack of digging done and the absence of an independent investigator.
Rugby league in club land is working hard to clean up its battered image and the QRL's perceived lack of action has caused a storm among some of the club bosses.
One said this week the QRL had "made a rod for its own back", predicting the handling of allegations of misbehaviour could serve as the wedge that drives the game towards one controlling body.
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