OPINION: This may be the first case of sharks finning themselves.
The Southland Sharks have seriously wounded their team and their franchise by their late-night brawl outside a New Plymouth bar.
Three players face serious assault charges and the specifics are a matter for the courts to determine. But the collective behaviour reported was swaggering, indulgent and dangerously ill-disciplined.
This from a team that, given its heroics last year, is quite rightly a finalist for Southland sports team of the year on Friday. And that has been moving impressively indeed throughout recent games.
The players were entitled to be feeling triumphant after a fabulously impressive come-from-behind win over the Taranaki Mountain Airs.
Nothing succeeds like success. And nothing exceeds like excess. Having played like men, the Sharks set out to celebrate like adolescents.
There's simply nothing on record to date to counter the impression these guys were pumped up and full of a sense of recreational entitlement.
In pursuit of which they were jerks.
It would have been wretched enough had the stoush been of standard belligerence, but reports of a king hit and stomping make it clear why the Sharks now face the prospect of multifaceted penalties judicial, sporting and public. Behaviour like that, from men in such peak physical condition, is potentially lethal.
We should admire our leading sports figures for what's admirable about them. That means we don't do it uncritically, but nor should we heap too much expectation on them or forget they can be as fallible as the rest of us.
Obviously, the Sharks have a discipline problem and not just as individuals.
This was hardly a case of one or two players straying off and getting into trouble. They were barred from one club and headed for another.
They stuck together all right, but where on earth was the dynamic of team members looking out for one another?
This terrible lapse is going to cost the Sharks dearly. Let's see how they man up to it.
Their fans, and the wider province, will still stand by them. Without being all that impressed; but they'll do it.
- The Southland Times
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