NRL Roosters winger Blake Ferguson is said to be playing some of the best football of his career following his self-imposed booze ban late last year, the decision praised by Roosters and reps coaches alike.
Of course, the NRL is right to support Ferguson in his decision. Except that it isn’t.
You’d have to be living under a rock to be unaware of the colossal saturation of alcohol sponsorship in the NRL. The code is rife with it, from ads during play and in the breaks in between, plastered on signage and uniforms and even spray-painted on the field; it’s inescapable.
The Roosters, and the NRL more broadly, are patting Ferguson on the back with one hand, while grabbing grubby money from the alcohol industry with the other.
And so here is another shining example of a sporting code harping, “do as I say, not as I do,” to its players.
While voicing his support for Ferguson’s abstinence, Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson said himself that alcohol is “less and less in our game, which is a good thing to see in professional sport.”
Agreed. But the job is nowhere near complete.
The Roosters, like all NRL teams, and the NRL itself are sponsored by alcohol brands.
2017 was tipped to be a huge season for Ferguson after winning the Harry Sunderland Medal as the Kangaroos’ best player during their 2016 Four Nations triumph.
Instead, he experienced a spectacular fall from grace with average performances on the field and various instances off of it, which led to his being dropped from the NSW State of Origin team and missing out on a spot in the World Cup squad.
Reflecting on his 2017, Ferguson is on record having said he’d let himself down.
But whether Ferguson is able to keep off the booze or not, it’s undeniable that the Roosters and the NRL are letting Ferguson down with continued deals with the alcohol industry.
And it’s not just Ferguson the NRL is letting down – far from it.
Every alcohol ad a child sees is driving them closer to drinking larger quantities from an earlier age.
There’s a multitude of research to back this up, but really one has to look no further than the very fact that big alcohol brands continue to push for prime position during sporting games – the one exemption alcohol advertising is given from the usual children’s viewing time ban.
Indeed, Ferguson should be congratulated. To give up the grog is one thing. To manage to keep it up while it’s being thrown in your face is another.