Kent: Misinformation is Cleary’s problem
IT surprises nobody that, if the first casualty of war is truth, then rugby league is right behind.
The game is filled with warring tribes, after all, and evil rumour.
The war was never bigger than the Super League years.
For those in late, it was 1997 and the competition was split in two pieces but moving towards a reunited competition under the newly formed National Rugby League in 1998.
I was working at my desk across the road from this place when a quiet tip came through the telephone.
Chris Anderson, the Canterbury coach, will be coaching Melbourne next season I got told.
It was a solid story if you could believe it. But could you believe it?
Part of this game is trusting where the information comes from, but Anderson was Canterbury royalty.
He once held the club record for most games. He still held the club record for most tries.
He was the son-in-law to club patriarch Peter Moore, who still sat in his smoky office. His wife Lynne, Bullfrog's daughter, was the club's marketing manager.
His brother-in-law Steve Folkes coached reserve grade. His other brother-in-law, Kevin Moore, also worked at the club.
A man does not walk away from family.
But then I hear this and I trust the guy and, knowing where he is from and how he might have come about the information, I trust it is correct.
Even if it seemed absurd.
"It's right," he said.
I called Anderson at the Bulldogs' office and told him what I knew.
"It's not right," he said. "I haven't signed anything."
What followed was a difficult conversation.
Anderson insisted he had signed no contract. I stood by the information, knowing where it was from.
He asked me not to write it. I was young then and bore only a few scars from being lied to by people trying to throw me off the scent of a story but had no appetite for more.
I was uncomfortable because more than once, I told Anderson, I was asked to kill a story only to see it in print somewhere else a few days later, and I trusted this information.
Anderson asked me again not to write and promised if anything ever changed he would let me know.
It was our first test of trust. In the end I thought he deserved that.
I agreed not to write the story.
On Sunday Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary accused the media of "misinformation" but then, given the chance to clear that up and give his version of events, was indignant he was questioned at all.
"I'm sure you can find the misinformation … I'm not going to talk about it," he said at the post-match press conference.
"I get it has been a big story but I said my position and I am not going to talk about it."
His position Saturday was that he "intends" to honour his contract at Wests Tigers.
As some apologists in the media have stated, Cleary does not have to talk about it.
But he does not have a right to also complain about "misinformation" when, given the chance, he refuses to correct it.
Cleary's problem is transparency.
The other half of the conversation about his future are those who are circulating this "misinformation".
Perhaps that is why he attacks the "misinformation" without specifying why, because to do so would attack those he has been conversing with and possibly draw more clarification.
But the Tigers fans deserve transparency, and an honesty, that is not forthcoming.
The goodwill is almost all gone.
In July, 100% Footy host James Bracey asked Phil Gould, across the desk, about Anthony Griffin's future as head coach at Penrith.
"He is contracted until the end of 2020 and that's the way it is going to stay?" Bracey said.
"Yeah," said Gould.
Now Gould last week: "The decision was made to part company straight away and get on with business."
Bracey asked in July about reports of a review into Griffin: "Has this review actually happened?"
"No," said Gould.
Then Gould last week: "Anthony Griffin probably would have been sacked three months ago after an internal review and there was another one after we were beaten by the Broncos [in July]."
Gould had the convenience of speaking on behalf of one employer, the Penrith Panthers, which required a certain version be told while ignoring the obligation to his other employer, Channel 9, which is about presenting the truth.
Channel 9, apparently, is comfortable with this conflict and relegation in priority.
Times were simpler once.
Truth was a sometimes uncomfortable, but accepted, option.
When Anderson got to training the morning after my phone call his players began their warm-ups before he called them together.
He told them he had signed overnight to coach Melbourne the next season.
Then he told them to get on with their warm-ups. He had business to attend to.
He went back to his office and called and reminded me he said that if anything changed he would tell me.
It might be down as one of the last reported times of a trust being honoured between a coach and journalist.
So he signed with Melbourne overnight, he said, and had just told the players.
Go ahead and write it.