Some Football Heroes Need Help


With the best will in the world, the top guns running the AFL and NRL can wring their hands and tell fans they are doing all they can to help the players currently getting publicity for abusing alcohol/drugs and being out of control. But the solution, sadly, is not in the hands of the managers. In a nutshell — the players need to want to get sober and kick the habit.

If they don’t, well, sorry that’s that.

Alcoholics stand apart from the majority of people in the community who can have a drink or several and stay in control. Sadly, once an alcoholic takes that first drink, they become powerless. As you’ll hear in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), one drink is too many and a thousand is not really enough.

Using the plight of Ben Cousins and Andrew Johns as pretexts, Kevin Rudd and John Howard pontificate on the evil of drugs tut-tutting their way onto the front pages and showing little regard for the men they are pillorying.

Despite the massive research facilities available to them, neither political leader has a grip on the problem which, of course, isn’t the exclusive domain of those in the media spotlight although gossip columnists regale us with names of the latest stars who book themselves into rehabs.

This is dangerous stuff.

A UN-organised rally in Iran

Getting help in a rehab is one thing, checking out and revisiting the old haunts and the old drinking mates is another. In many cases alcohol/drug abusers relapse; the media reports the fall from grace; and those contemplating asking for help say: ‘To hell with it! It didn’t work for so and so. It won’t work for me.’

When it comes to the alcohol abusers in their clubs, the top guns at the AFL and NRL (and for that matter, those at Coalition or ALP headquarters) might be better off having a chat to someone in one of the State offices of AA and get the real take on the problem.

They’ll be told to send the player in question to an AA meeting where they can sit down and listen to the stories of others. If the new boy listens to the similarities and doesn’t try to isolate the differences, then he will have taken that first step towards recovery.

And talking of steps, there are actually 12 of them and the first one is all important: we admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.

What’s more unmanageable than going away on an end of season ‘bonding’ session with the team mates, getting shit-faced, wrecking the hotel, generally behaving like an animal, and (in extreme cases) being involved in gang rapes?

Not everyone behaves like that, but anyone serious about tackling their drinking problem head on will soon realise that they’ll need to be careful who they mix with and where. (AA suggest staying away from the old haunts and drinking mates because long experience has taught them that an alcoholic is never told what to do!)

All the players with problems should be given Eric Clapton’s life story, Eric Clapton: The Autobiography. Eric can now honestly say he is clean and sober, but in the 1960s he embarked on the high road, became addicted to drugs and went to a rehab. While he was there, he became addicted to alcohol — those in the know refer to this as ‘dual addiction’. The footy chiefs must realise there are plenty of Erics among their ranks.

If the powers that be are fair dinkum, they could alert the guys who they have identified with a problem to programs like AA. And Howard and Rudd could look a lot savvier if they did some research as well.

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