In a rather significant “where are they now?” story, did anyone notice the news last week about former Canberra Raiders enforcer John Lomax?
He’s just closed a chapter of his life that shouldn’t have happened after a very public arrest in July 2015, when he was charged with blackmail. The charges were dropped months later, and last week he settled with police after suing them for malicious prosecution. Quite a story.
I played against John and his assassin sidekicks, Quentin Pongia and Ruben Wiki, back in the days when front-rowers got up close and personal.
Johnny went on to win premierships with Canberra and captained the Kiwis. Old-school to his core, he ran hard, tackled hard and never gave up. Traits I recognised later playing with one of his talented brothers, David, for a couple of seasons under Mal Reilly in the 1990s.
From honest working stock, their dad was a shunter, who lost his legs in an industrial accident when they were kids. He was a union man and it was the union that stepped in to support the family.
Naturally this left an impression on the Lomax kids. All went on to work in welfare roles, with one brother a religious minister, a sister in public health and Johnny in the trade union movement as an organiser for the CFMEU in the ACT.
In the event, Johnny was arrested and charged for what appeared to most to be doing his job. The charge was that he made a “demand with menace”. Police alleged he had forced a Canberra painting company to sign a union enterprise bargaining agreement, causing a financial loss.
In terms of timing, charges were laid with the Royal Commission into unions in full swing, ensuring Johnny suffered the ignominy of front-page coverage in not just his home town. The usual suspects dug up photos from his playing days and plastered them with headlines about blackmail and the like.
In a twist lost on few, his treatment then differs markedly to the current inquiry into the banks, where far worse revelations scandalise the industry, with not so much as a parking ticket in sight.
Out of interest, I understand a specific of Johnny’s supposed crime was that he phoned the company and asked that they pay the industry hourly rate. No standing over anyone, no threats, just a few phone calls and a claim for better pay for workers.
When the matter came to court, the charge was dropped. Johnny sued the police and last week there was a confidential settlement, in his favour.
My interest in this is not altogether unbiased. During my time as head of the Rugby League Players Association, particularly when we took steps to register the RLPA as a trade union in 2003, there was a marked increase in the media attacks on the organisation and me personally.
In spite of vested criticism, we achieved many ground-breaking benefits, including the formal standing of an emerging player body.
To ensure these arrangements were properly enforced for the long term, we insisted they be put in a registered agreement – nothing criminal about that, then.
But back to Lomax. With what’s since happened, it’s inescapable to conclude that in such a politically charged climate Johnny was especially targeted by sections of the media because of his profile in rugby league. Sad.
I wish Johnny well in this vindication. He’s nothing less than a gentlemen who deserved better.
* THE biff is back.
Melbourne’s young Turk Curtis Scott couldn’t cop another second of trash talk from Dylan Walker last week, lost his cool and jobbed him. Massively out of line, he copped a two-week punishment. It did, however, seem for some to contradict the six-week, injury-enforced holiday for Dylan. But they’re the current rules.
Wrong? Possibly, but Walker must accept some blame.
Even in “big boys’ rules”, it’s ever wrong to throw the first punch. What’s equally accepted is incessant smack talk and shirt-fronting escalates any situation and is playing with fire.
Another “eye for an eye” fan dilemma from the Brisbane/Roosters encounter involved Dylan Napa’s head clash with ex-Knights goer Korbin Sims.
Korbs finished up with a broken jaw and a diet of pain and smoothies, while the perpetrator got a 10-minute break. Again, on its face, it makes little sense.
Judging each case on its merits, I think it’s fair to say this was accidental. Nobody deliberately tackles with their head. Do they? I know it’s not good for your head or neck.
On this occasion the big palooka, at speed, clumsily caught out by Korbin’s impressive footwork, over-commits and, off-balance on the wrong shoulder, aimlessly follows through (like a raging bull). These accumulating miscalculations could so easily have seen Napa himself laying on the ground snoring.
Tough game. Two bulls. Teach better technique.
I hope Korbs has a speedy return to the field.
* FOR the Knights, last week was a lost opportunity against a Titans outfit who kept on coming. In the end, silly errors and a lucky kick deflection were the difference.
Another disappointment, another brick in the wall for the young squad who shone through with commitment and positive attitude for the most part.
Getting a chance to do it all again on Sunday, they’ll be taking on a Sharks team packed with plenty of good players. On form, Cronulla should get up in a close one.
Newcastle’s forwards need to dominate their opponents and lay a foundation for the speed section.
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