Auto Poster Josh Dugan's tears ought to remind us to be careful how we criticise people

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Apr 23, 2013
Josh Dugan's tears ought to remind us to be careful how we criticise people


Last updated 05:00, September 15 2018


Ryan Crotty said the hardest people to convince he was right to return was his mum and sister.

OPINION: At some point, something horrifying and tragic will happen to a high-profile rugby or rugby league player.

That's not a prediction, more a fear. One heightened by what happened with Cronulla player Josh Dugan this week.

For those who missed it Dugan, the former State of Origin and Kangaroos regular, broke down while talking to reporters in Sydney. He said the relentless negativity of rugby league coverage and the scrutiny and criticisms levelled at him, had simply worn him down.

All Blacks midfield back Ryan Crotty dealt with questions about his health very well on Thursday.

He was a good person, who did good things behind the scenes that no-one knew about, and couldn't take this any more. Dugan was then withdrawn from the Sharks' team to play Penrith on Friday, with the club sighting a shoulder injury.

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Dugan is not a boy. He's 28, a veteran of almost 200 first-grade games, as well as state and test football. He's had a few scrapes, often related to alcohol, but he's said to be well liked and thought of by those who know him.

Cronulla's Josh Dugan got quite tearful at a press conference this week.

But he's also on his third club and doesn't appear as if he'll play representative football again, on the basis of off-field behaviour. Never anything violent or particularly unsavoury, just dumb stuff that undermines team culture.

Things that were widely reported and for which he's been roundly criticised.

You contrast him with All Blacks second five-eighth Ryan Crotty, who doesn't appear to have a blemish on his behavioural record.

What Crotty does have, though, is a lengthening history of head knocks. The most recent, against Australia on August 18, upset many viewers and led to quite widespread calls for the 29-year-old to retire, on the basis his health was at risk.

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Crotty will now return to the field for New Zealand against South Africa on Saturday.

He did media duty for the All Blacks on Thursday revealing that, in the weeks since his latest knock, he could hardly walk down the street without people asking how he was. That wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but Crotty is an affable fellow and said he genuinely appreciated people's concern.

A different person might regard that as some kind of harassment. They could be hugely offended - probably even angry - that people who know nothing about them or their medical history would have the nerve to say it was time to give the game away.

How would Dugan have taken that, for instance?

People are very free with their opinions nowadays. Whether it's people who use words for a living, or those on social media, we appear to have far less fear about how our takes could be interpreted and who they might hurt.

For every Ryan Crotty, there's a Josh Dugan who can take things to heart and be wounded by them.

The stock response of athletes, and the like, is to ignore everything that's said and written about them. Or at least say they do.

But these people all have friends and family and eventually the comments filter their way through to them. Only not the actual words, but an exaggerated version, which inevitably upsets them more.

It's not about hardening up or players needing to stop being sooks, but remembering that words do hurt.

Before something truly regrettable happens, let's try and use Dugan as a reminder to be kinder to each other.

- Stuff

Next League story:

Cronulla Sharks deny Penrith Panthers comeback in NRL semifinal thriller

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