Karmichael Hunt pleads guilty … where to from here?

I have been blown away by the breaking news from the Southport Magistrates Court this morning the the Queensland Reds “star” recruit has pleaded guilty to four counts of possession of cocaine.  To say I am gobsmacked at the early plea would be an understatement albeit, since news of the charges broke, I confess I expected this to be ultimate result. 

Hunt has been stood down from playing duties since he was charged.  Whilst there has been no indication as to the position with respect to his contract in this scenario from the Queensland Reds it is difficult to see how he can remain with the team.  

I have heard all of the arguments that the conduct of these players in taking recreational drugs is just an indicia of a broader problem in society and I agree that it is.  That being the case though, Hunt ought be dealt with by his employer in the same way any other employer would deal with an employee found guilty of multiple serious offenses under the criminal code.  His employment contract will have in it a provision that deals with employee misconduct and that provision should be followed to the letter.  

If that means Hunt’s contract is summarily terminated then so be it.  To me, that has to be the right decision for the good of the club and its fans. 

Karmichael Hunt: In the interest of clarity

The Queensland Reds’ posted a statement this afternoon about the revelations regarding Karmichael Hunt. In that statement the following point is made:

Karmichael has not been arrested or charged. He has received a notice to appear.

Either the Queensland Reds have not been furnished with the Notice to Appear or they are receiving very poor legal advice because that statement is patently wrong!

A simple search of the Queensland Department of Justice website reveals that there are four ways one can be made to go to Court (in a criminal context) including the receipt by the defendant of a Notice to Appear. The page then goes on to describe the Notice to Appear thusly:

After being arrested, instead of placing you in custody, the police might give you a notice to appear and let you go home. They can give this to you when they charge you or will mail it to you. A Notice to Appear is a written document that tells you what you have been charged with and when and where you have to go to court.

For those who are further interested here is the link: http://www.justice.qld.gov.au/justice-services/courts-and-tribunals/going-to-court/defendants/when-to-go-to-court

Hunt, clearly, would not have received his Notice to Appear unless he was charged with an offence (or in this case four offences). To suggest otherwise is a nonsense plain and simple!

The Reds have, as an outsider looking in, fumbled their response to this from the get go. From the original statement which suggested that they first found out about the charge in the press through a statement that is not only legally wrong but also outlines a decision only to stand down Hunt for this coming weekend’s fixture the way this has been handled by the QRU has been amateur hour!

Here’s hoping the QRU’s response to this very serious issue improves. At the very least they have to get their facts correct. They also have to, as a minimum, suspend Hunt indefinitely. Any other approach is a joke.

Am I a disengaged fan of the Queensland Reds? You bet I am … but I am still a fan

Yesterday I received a Direct Message on twitter from the Queensland Red’s twitter account that read as follows:

“Hi Steven, we’re concerned that you’re feeling disengaged as a fan and we’d like to know how we can improve the situation?

My reply (along with the original DM) is set out in the two photos below:

 

I concede that my answer did not really answer the question put to me. I set out what had led me to become disengaged without answering what would improve my level of engagement. The fact is that there is nothing that Queensland Reds could say to me that would be likely to reinvigorate my engagement levels given the breadth of my whinges.
Regardless though of my level of disengagement with the team, I will continue to:
  1. Go to Reds games.
  2. Celebrate Reds victories.
  3. Commiserate Reds losses.
  4. Where appropriate, criticise all that I believe to be wrong with the team.
That is, after all, what being a fan of a sporting team is all about isn’t it? Whether I am engaged or not I remain a fan.

 

A final point: if sending me the message above was a strategy to engage me by the Queensland Reds it represents a spectatular failure because as I post this blog, some 24 hours after my reply to the Red’s message I still do not have a reply. Spelling my name wrong was bad enough but attempting to engage me without actually engaging is just another brick in the wall of my disengagement.

 

 

Rugby: Memo to the QRU / Queensland Reds on the fan experience

Last night saw the end of the 2014 Super Rugby season for the Queensland Reds. In a season where the membership of the Reds hit 55,000 (obviously this number includes single / three game memberships) it is strange to be writing a post about improving the fan’s experience. However, having attended all but one home game this year: the matters I intend to raise are things that have been floating through my mind all year.

Whilst the Reds are to be applauded for their obviously excellent membership drive this year, in the context of a poorly coached and under performing team going onto the field, here are 5 things they or the QRU must improve on to improve the fan’s experience AND keep all those members coming through the door:

1. Stop playing music / chants in the middle of play

I have never experienced this at any other Australian sporting event: the playing over the loud speaker of a stylised “We are Red” chant at important and even ad hoc parts of the game. It is irritating and does not promote chanting. Rather it is an embarrassment and must stop.

2. Time for a new “on field” announcer

The fan experience before and after the game and during breaks in play is oft guided by the “on field” announcer and the fellow the Reds have been trotting out for the last seven years is, frankly, appalling. Yelling into the microphone at every opportunity does not make for good ground announcing nor does being embarrassingly partisan. It is time for “Woodie” to head back to River 94.9FM and a change to be made.

3. Schedule more afternoon games

The next generation of rugby union fans are obviously in the age group of 5-12. The Reds (and indeed all sports franchises) have to take positive steps to get more these future fans to the games. A simple way to do that is to the schedule the game at a time that is more kid friendly. A 7:40pm is just too late for young families to come to the game. Scheduling more games at 3pm or even 4pm on a Sunday would solve this problem.

4. Open enough bars / food outlets to serve everyone comfortably

I have noticed over the last four or five rounds a contraction in the number of food outlets and bars open in the area in which I sit despite there being a steady increase in fans sitting in the area, particularly last night. Of course this leads to longer queues and more time away from the game. One would have thought given the robbery prices charges that they could afford to keep needed outlets open!

5. Who ever decided not to sell a match program last night must be sacked

I know I am a bit old school but the first thing I do when I walk through the gates of any sport event is buy a program. Whilst I was later than normal last night, when I arrived some 45 minutes before kick off I was astonished to find no programs on sale and I was not the only one looking for one! A program is an important part of the game experience for many fans: this must not happen again!

As I said at the start of this post: the Reds are to be applauded for their excellent membership drive this year. That said, if they want to keep those members, particularly members who have been members for a long time, these are matters that must be fixed in my view.

Bring on 2015 and, hopefully, an improved fan experience!

Super Rugby: How long can Richard Graham last?

I have written before on this blog about the performance of the Queensland Reds this season and my regular lament has been about the seeming drop in skills and discipline in the team during the 2014 season. Yet again last night we saw a Queensland Reds outfit that was ill disciplined both in attack and defence; viz, yet again the Reds were prone to make a mistake in almost every key moment and were punished for it by a workmanlike and consistent Force outfit.

Obviously the team has been decimated by injury but this is not the first time the skills gap between the Reds and an opponent has been obvious. Indeed, the last time I wrote calling for the head of the coach the Reds were fielding an almost full strength line up including the team’s half stars, Genia and Cooper and on that occasion, against the Rebels, poor discipline and errors were the deciding factor in the game.

Additionally, last night’s game was another fixture in which the Reds highly vaunted forward pack was, frankly, completely dominated by an opposing pack. Make no mistake: this game was won by the Western Force in the exchanges in the forwards, particularly at the breakdown and in set piece play where the Reds lacked enthusiasm as well as technical precision.

Richard Graham was always going to be compared to Ewen McKenzie when he took over the stewardship of the Reds and the one key comparison I would make is the fact that from basically the same playing group that last year made the finals, Graham has produced a rabble whose skills fall far short of the level likely to challenge most teams in this competition currently. Injuries can take part of the blame as can the form of the players BUT a large part of the blame must rest with Richard Graham and his coaching group.

All of the words coming from the QRU have been that Richard Graham will be the coach of the Queensland Reds in 2015. I get that he has a contract that the Reds are keen to fulfil but based on the confluence of results and the type of rugby the Reds are / have played this year he must be close to having lost the confidence of team management on the one hand and the players on the other.

Absent a must improved performance next week, Queensland will, and this is the hardest admission a Queenslander can make, be thrashed by New South Wales next week at Lang Park. There can be no greater insult. If that happens then in my opinion Richard Graham’s tenure as Queensland Reds coach must considered by the QRU and brought to an end so that a fresh start can be made in 2015. Absent such a start I can not fathom how a team coached by Graham can or will improve on this year and that, as a Reds fan and a Wallaby fan, is a terrible position for the Reds and the Wallabies.

Postscript: The ongoing chase for James O’Connor’s signature, seemingly at the behest of Coach Graham does nothing to enhance my opinion of his coaching acumen. The fact is that O’Connor is a terrible influence, indeed a divisive one, on the dressing room and the last thing the Reds need is another injury prone winger (when he is not beset by scandal).