A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN – TONY DURKIN
RIGHT now, to many rugby league supporters, Semi Radradra is a money-grabbing mercenary.
But to those who know him, and understand his position, he is a young Fijian man being led up the garden path.
When Radradra was selected for the Kangaroos to play the trans-Tasman Test earlier in the year, I was among those who considered it a poor decision. He wasn’t, in any way I viewed his bona fides, an Aussie, and didn’t deserve the jersey.
Then, at the start of last week when it became apparent – through a media frenzy – that he had headed home to Fiji to apparently never return to the NRL, we naysayers had every right to chuckle “I told you so”.
But a chat with Petero Civoniceva, without doubt one of the most ethical and respected men to play our game, has changed my skew on big Semi.
Petero is alarmed at these recent developments involving the Eels and Kangaroos winger. And he’s astounded, not at the fact Semi may be turning his back on rugby league, but by the media hammering he has received.
Radradra is, according to Petero, a victim of a world totally foreign to him. He has been poorly advised and treated as a commodity and has become the ham in a rather unpalatable sandwich.
These accusations are not levelled at anyone in particular, but at a system that allows this unfortunate situation to occur. And Petero fears that because of the success Fijians have had in the NRL in recent years, it will continue while an unscrupulous element in the game – albeit minor – is permitted to take advantage of the naivety of these young men.
Like the rest of us, Petero has no idea if Radradra will serve out the remainder of his 18-month contract with the Eels. And he has seen no proof that French rugby is on his radar.
But what he does suspect, and why his empathy is with the 24-year-old, is that Semi is being violated.
He doesn’t believe the welfare of Radradra, his personal life, his unique family situation or his character have been considered in this media hoo-ha of the past week. And with a manager who declines to be interviewed and a club in turmoil and without a chief executive, who can argue with that summation.
Petero does not believe Radradra is without some blame and agrees he should be admonished over this current circus surrounding is future. But he doubts very much whether any of what has transpired has been orchestrated by the flying winger.
Whatever the outcome, this has been an unsavoury situation that should never have been allowed to gather momentum. Hopefully the NRL takes advice from Petero to avert anything similar down the track.
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