Ire over report on South Sydney Rabbitohs chairman Nick Pappas’ reference for convicted rapist Luke Lazarus

Thursday, July 5, 2018

South Sydney were up in arms over our column last week in which we revealed the Rabbitohs were issued a “please explain” by the NRL about their chairman Nick Pappas writing a reference for Luke Lazarus.

Pappas was one of a number of high-profile identities who provided character references for Lazarus,  who was sentenced last month to a maximum jail term of five years for sexually assaulting a teenage girl. Because I raised this issue, Souths went on the attack with the highly unusual decision to put out a media release.

The release read in part: “Rabbitohs CEO John Lee has confirmed with the NRL today that the Club and its Chairman, Nicholas Pappas, are not under investigation regarding a personal reference written by Mr Pappas in a recent legal matter … Mr Pappas wrote the reference as a private citizen, not on behalf of the Club, and the Club supports his right to do this. Mr Lee will be calling upon the journalist and the Fairfax organisation to make a public apology.”

Before this columnist wrote last week’s piece, we contacted Pappas and printed his version of events. Souths didn’t extend that courtesy to this column. Here are some of the facts. This column spoke to the NRL twice before publishing the piece. The NRL explained clearly that Souths had been contacted for an explanation. Hence, throughout the article we used the term “please explain”. At no point did this column say that Souths were “under investigation”. After Souths issued the media release, I contacted the NRL. They said they did not have an issue with a single word that I wrote in my column – they were all factual.

This column supports the judicial system – but it is this column’s view that Pappas, a decent family man, made an error of judgment.

Tara shows that Coleman style

The Colemans are a strong sporting family – dad Craig was a Rabbitohs great and his son Liam is a rising star at the Bunnies – but right now daughter Tara , middle, is setting the pace. She was part of the board relay team that won the Australian championships this week on the Gold Coast. She teamed up with Liz Pluimers and Brodie Moir to win for North Burleigh despite tripping on the sand early after Pluimers had got things off a flying start.

Bite of the cherry

Central to the story about Daly Cherry-Evans’ potential backflip is a meeting surrounding the prospect of a TV deal in Sydney.  Cherry-Evans was represented at a meeting with Fox Sports recently, which was also attended by Manly boss Joe Kelly.  The clear message at the meeting was Cherry-Evans wanted to stay in Sydney, and working with Fox on a regular basis was part of that plan. The most unusual thought of the week emerged from that meeting. The third-party deals have been mentioned as an issue – quite simply DCE found out after his deal with the Titans that his corporate value was no longer the same as it would be if he remained in Sydney. That he didn’t know that earlier is bizarre. Even more unusual is the line that Cherry-Evans wants to work on a career in the media, with talk of his potential to be “the next Matthew Johns”. Now there is no question  DCE has media skill – he could be a politician the way he deals with questions. But the majority of the media find him condescending in his approach. He is also off with large sections of the media – again because of that attitude. Johns cultivated relationships with the media during his playing career and again after retirement. Perhaps DCE needs to sit down with a few experienced journalists and find out how the media actually work. It’s something  Johns did, and he also had spark, humour and bite to his comments and views. He wrote a column and put thought into it.  If Cherry-Evans wants to be the next Johns and make his career dream come true, he has a road to travel.

Mbye muddle

Moses Mbye might have made a big name for himself as the Bulldogs’ Mr Fix-it, but the pronunciation of his name has caused headaches for the game’s commentators and journalists. His estranged father is Gambian, so the natural thought is to pronounce it the African way as in “Mmmmm-bye”. Wrong. Is it “Um-bye” – as in Mumbai, the way Ray Warren booms it out? No. What about “Mer-bye” (think Murwillumbah), the way it was pronounced when he was growing up in Tewantin on the Sunshine Coast? He’s gone cold on that. The man himself likes “Em-bye”, so “Em-bye” it is. Talking about Mbye, he’s squarely in the sights of Maroons coach Mal Meninga, who has regularly included him in Queensland team dinners. It was intriguing though when he wasn’t named in an emerging squad earlier this year, after receiving a call from assistant coach Michael Hagan to see if he was “sweet” to attend the camp.

Sharks circling?

There was a very interesting gathering at Shark Park after  Cronulla rolled Newcastle. Seen having a chat were Paul Gallen and his old teammates Kade Snowden and Jeremy Smith. Be sure they weren’t just chatting about the match. Remember they were teammates during the Stephen Dank days. There are players during that time who are still dirty on the club and want to sue – there is no question that is an option and it would have been a topic of conversation. I raised the prospect of players taking action against the Sharks with Gallen and he said it hadn’t been ruled out. “But it’s not something that I have discussed with lawyers,” he said.  You get the impression that if Gallen instructs the players to start going down a legal path, they will do so in a heartbeat.

 Concern for Idris

Jamal Idris is in the best of hands as he fights a season-ending injury and depression. Panthers general manager Phil Gould and coach Ivan Cleary have been around and seen enough to handle the most difficult situations. Idris bared his soul – I was stunned at the openness of his comments and you can’t help but think he is worried about his future. “I’ve got to find a reason to wake up every morning,” he said. “I’m worried about my life without football because I don’t understand life.” Gould watched the interview with interest and he gets Idris. “Jamal like every player at our club knows they have the support of this club,” he said.

 Woods at it again

Aaron Woods has become king of the gee-up at the Wests Tigers. He’s responsible for “The Iceman” nickname given to Pat Richards for his efforts in winning clutch games for the joint venture (Richards says he hates it but there’s a belief he secretly loves it). Now Woods is trying to make a new nickname stick – “Topper” for Dene Halatau. The story goes that  Halatau always betters stories and anecdotes told by the boys, so Woods has all the boys calling him “Topper” because he tops yarns.

Hooper on wheels

Spotted in Manly – Michael Hooper, the Wallabies skipper, ripping down a hill on a skateboard showing the kind of form that would make Tony Hawk proud. The only concern – his lack of a helmet – or any another protective padding. Now, that would be an issue for coach Michael Cheika.

Danny Weidler is a Channel Nine reporter

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