To be (Hudson) Young and Stupid.

What is it about eye gouging that brings out the worst in the rugby league community?

Hudson Young was charged for dangerous conduct after this weekend’s loss, principally relating to accusations that he eye gouged Warriors centre Adam Pompey. I’m not actually interested in whether Young did the deed. While the footage didn’t look great, Pompey didn’t seem worried. Make of that what you will.

Courtesy FoxSports

Even if he didn’t ‘gouge’ so to speak, there was definitely rubbish in the face, and it was him. It is potentially Young’s second offence, and going on the George Burgess precedent from earlier this year it seems like Hudson should expect to spend somewhere between 8-12 weeks on the sideline. A shame for the young man, but he’s got to get out of his game.

Of course this requires the NRL ignoring its own rule from earlier in the season when it only gave Josh McGuire a fine based on the fact that no complaint was made. In Young’s case there was none from the player or by the on-field officials. Actually, the charge was led by FoxSports, who probably shouldn’t be part of the judiciary process. Regardless it doesn’t seem a fiduciary approach will be followed by the NRL this time around.

It’s hard to tell just what the NRL will do, mostly because people are very cranky. The darker bits of Raiders social media suggested the Green Machine should tear up his contract to send a strong message. To whom I don’t know but it would certainly be strong! Which is fun if that’s what you’re into. Of course this position lasts only as long as the player is important. Let’s just say if John Bateman does similar this weekend I don’t think the volume of this demand will be similar.

You can forgive social media for being a bit hot-under-the-collar. After all isn’t that what the socials are famed for? Just blowing off a bit of steam guys! Didn’t actually mean to demand another human lose their career so my side can have some nebulous concept of moral high ground to poke other teams with. I guess if we can’t win the comp, at least we can be the most sanctimonious.

The most scorching takes came from some of the greatest minds in the rugby league community. Brett Finch led the charge demanding 20 weeks for the (unproven) offence – a number that is more than double what George Burgess got (let’s not go into Josh McGuire, we’ll end up drinking sad whisky and listening to GhostPoet). Shit Danny Williams only got 18 for sucker punching Mark O’Neil. Andrew Johns weighed in for 20 weeks to a season because he can’t let Finchy get the running like that. Brad Fittler said Hudson Young isn’t ready for first grade, which is really just Freddy providing grist to that old joke that he doesn’t watch the Raiders for the 4000th time. Sometimes I wonder if he listens to himself talk.

Just when you thought it all couldn’t get any more scorching, Reni Matua, who you may remember from spending two years out of the league for taking performance enhancing drugs, busted out the worst diss-track ever, saying Young would have “left in a body bag” in his day. His day being last year depending on how you think about it. We’ve come so far since 2018.

All of sudden the social media scrum seemed more intelligent.

It’s a shame rugby league is catered to by such simplistic approaches. It really is a beautiful game, and too often doesn’t get what it deserves from it’s TV media. Instead of seeking a proportionate and appropriate response that deters future behaviour and doesn’t unnecessarily end a career, they instead have taken to this issue with all the subtlety of a Shannon Boyd hit up.

Coach Stuart predictably (and just a smidge bit admirably) defended his young player and called the reaction above ‘childish’. Fair enough. He’s looking after the mental welfare of Hudson and knows he’s got work to do to make sure that the mob rule doesn’t come for a young man who should have known better but didn’t. And he knows that people like Johns and Fittler have much weight in the halls of power.

So what to do?

We could start by treating Young’s offence in the same way we’ve treated other offenders. Justice is blind and all that. So somewhere between a fine and 12 weeks. It’s a big range, but hey, consistency can be hard.

The second thing we could do is expect our commentariat to be more circumspect in the face of controversy. The chance of this happening is somewhere between zero and zero kelvin. Money is driven by eye balls and clicks. Eye balls and clicks are driven by controversy. Ergo controversy means money. But hey, a brother can dream right?

People do dumb things sometimes, and while this is his second offence, I suspect the maelstrom surrounding Young this week will be a fair deterrence from being involved in such behaviour in the future. His offence (if proven) needs to be taken seriously and dealt with but it can be done without burning him and his career in a firestorm of hot-takes.

Alas I’m not in charge. I hope that those who are remember their job is to make decisions based on facts, not on how much hot air is emerging from a microphone.

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