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Mal jokes over no laughing matter

By Laine Clark 07/07/2009 08:16:37 PM Comments (0)

Laughter may be the best medicine but Mal Meninga hardly healed yet another black eye delivered to rugby league when he initially joked about Nate Myles' embarrassing plight on Tuesday.

Myles' Central Coast hotel indiscretion on the weekend was no laughing matter.

The Queensland forward was banned for six games - including next week's Origin III - and his NRL club Sydney Roosters fined $50,000 after he was found naked outside his room and to have defecated in the hotel corridor.

But when asked how he felt when told about Myles' actions, Maroons coach Meninga quipped: "I was a bit shitty about it."

It was surprising considering Meninga's no-nonsense stance on off-field player behaviour.

Attitudes off the field had been placed higher than form on it by Meninga - and it had paid big dividends.

Queensland won an unprecedented fourth straight Origin series when they sealed a 24-14 game two victory in Sydney last month.

They are vying for their first series whitewash in 15 years next Wednesday night in Brisbane.

Meninga sensed his comic timing was off when he was met by an uneasy silence to his joke at a Brisbane press conference on Tuesday and quickly morphed back into the hardline Queensland coach.

"Look, I was very disappointed. It is not part of who we are," he said.

"Players have a responsibility as custodians of the game.

"They have got to make sure they leave the game a better place than how they found it.

"But one thing about Nate is that he is very honest, he owns up to it, he accepts responsibility.

"He has copped a fair penalty, he will come back a better person."

Meninga also refused to rule out Myles from future Origin campaigns.

"I am a loyal character," he said.

"It depends on Nate and how he carries himself, how he behaves certainly off the field.

"It has been an important part of what we are trying to do with the Queensland side - but also important for the game in general - that players start to realise that these sort of things are bringing the game into disrepute.

"It's about time the players started to toe the line."

Myles' unavailability was a blow to a Queensland side already trying to overcome the loss of forwards Petero Civoniceva (foot) and Ben Hannant (knee).

But rather than chastise him, his Maroons teammates repeated the mantra that they were "more disappointed for him" when inevitably asked at the Maroons medical on Tuesday.

The players' association RLPA were not so understanding.

"It is inexcusable in society in general and totally out of place for a professional athlete and role model to behave in such a manner," RLPA chairman Paul Moreton said.

"The RLPA will be seeking a meeting with the NRL to discuss this specific matter with a view to reviewing other options available to ensure this situation never again arises."

The fallout was even felt in international hockey circles.

The Australian women's team - the Hockeyroos - were looking forward to some welcome publicity by attending a joint press conference with the Roosters and AFL club Essendon on Wednesday.

But the Roosters announced late on Tuesday the media event had been cancelled.

Myles' manager Gavin Orr tried to be philosophical when asked on Tuesday.

"He's a good person and of good character so I'd have no problems in saying it's a step backwards and now he's got to take two steps forwards," he said.

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