How does the punishment handed down to Addin Fonua-Blake sit with everyone?
An early guilty plea and he cops a two-match ban and reportedly will be fined $10,000 - $20,000 for his spray to referee Grant Atkins after Manly's loss to Newcastle on Sunday Afternoon.
Fonua-Blake, sent off by referee Atkins after the final whistle fronted the media to apologise and plead his ignorance of his choice of words. In fact, prior to facing the media, Manly & Fonua-Blake issued a statement addressing the incident. Not good enough, not in this era, a video perhaps or something face-to-face would have been more appropriate.
Here's his defense, Manly had just lost and arguably, in fact, quite probably the decision to not award a penalty to the Sea Eagles for a late push was wrong. Graham Annesley came out and said they got it wrong, as he often does, Fonua-Blake and his teammates were obviously bewildered by the call. But that's it, after all, it's a game of footy.
For those who missed it.
Fonua-Blake hasn't been educated, clearly, the words he chose to use on Sunday afternoon demonstrate just that. I could only imagine the type of hurt that words of those nature could bring to someone living with a disability. The time on the sidelines is fair enough and the fine will hurt as well, but shouldn't we educate this man and potentially many others that don't understand the impact that such language can have on many members of the community? Over 4 million Australians live with a disability, around 15% of the population.
The image of Rugby League often gets battered around with off-field, often alcohol fuelled indiscretions. This one is different, the National Rugby League has built a clear message of inclusivity, anyone can play the greatest game in the world regardless of their age, sex, ability or anything else. What Fonua-Blake's words do is diminish a lot of that work and a lot of that messaging, suggesting there is still quite a stigma surrounding people living with disabilities and playing the great game.
What should Addin Fonua-Blake do now? With every mistake comes an opportunity to make amends and turn that negative into something much brighter. For Fonua-Blake, it might be visiting local community members around Manly that are living with disabilities to gain a greater understanding of their situation and unique circumstances and maybe to brighten a few people's lives up. Do that, but without the media circus following him or the Manly Sea Eagles making it a directive.
Maybe he already has and we don't know about it, I hope he has.