You sleep with dogs, you get fleas, the old saying goes. It is little wonder New South Wales is collectively scratching itself to the bone.
The Blues don’t have a culture problem. They have a culture crisis. This isn’t a case of Queensland having found The Copper Scroll and New South Wales having a culture that is good but deficient. This is a case of New South Wales Rugby League having a rotten, selfish culture that is only getting worse.
The stories over the last 24 hours have only served to confirm this.
Andrew Fifita was dropped to the bench for David Klemmer by Laurie Daley before Fifita cracked the shits and Daley backed down.
Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson spent their day off getting so drunk at a nearby pub that Blues officials needed to hide them from the media the following day.
— Nine News Queensland (@9NewsQueensland) July 18, 2017
Nobody should be surprised by this.
Fifita has always been a selfish, thoughtless person. Let’s not forget his wrist-tape, his threats to defect to rugby union and his behaviour at Penrith junior matches, let alone his decision to camp up with Matthew Lodge in the lead-up to Origin 1.
— Triple M NRL (@TripleM_NRL) July 17, 2017
Dugan and Ferguson only ever think about themselves and getting on the drink. The Baccardi Breezer incident cost the Raiders plenty. They were both involved again in the lead-up to another Blues camp where Ferguson was eventually charged with an indecent assault. In a rugby league rumour mill that is always churning, no player pops up more regularly than Ferguson.
Yet all three have been not only welcomed by the Blues hierarchy, but embraced. Dugan has been played out of position time and time again despite not having a single decent game as a centre under his belt. Ferguson was stuck with despite shocking defensive errors in nearly every game of state and club football, a long rap sheet and the fact Tom Trbojevic was waiting in the wings. Fifita is measured only by his best and not his most common.
This is to say nothing of the selections of the selfish Jarryd Hayne and the clearly-incapable-at-Origin-level Mitchell Pearce.
Laurie Daley may well be the nicest bloke in rugby league, but he has had five years to end this rot yet only seems to be empowering the rats.
Daley seems to think a positive culture is one where the boat never gets rocked, everybody smiles, the perception is everybody is sticking together. He is obviously extremely conservative by nature – his selections certainly attest to that – and is highly conflict-averse.
He is wrong.
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) July 12, 2017
A strong culture is one of accountability, one of empowerment, one where standards are set and standards are met. It is one where you know you will be backed if you do your job and you will be out if you don’t. It is one that puts the team first above individual desires. It is one where troublemakers are disciplined, given a second chance and if they fail again, are blacklisted for good. It is one where entitlement is eviscerated and gratitude for an opportunity is all that matters.
Until the Blues brass realise this, New South Wales will keep on losing. And it seems they will because the CEO and Chairman have already backed Daley in two of the stupidest endorsements one could imagine and one that should cost them both their jobs.
But it won’t. They will be safe. This is New South Wales Rugby League, where protecting your position is all that matters.