Packer’s unforgivable moment of madness
Russell Packer played his first NRL game in more than a year on Saturday night.
The $750,000-a-year Wests Tigers front-rower returned against the Canberra Raiders in a long-awaited opportunity to repay the club's fans and take the next positive step in the game's most inspiring redemption story.
The Wests Tigers were rallying magnificently from a Michael Maguire shake-up and in a great position to cause an upset after a shocking loss to the Gold Coast Titans the previous week.
Packer took the field in the 49th minute. Six minutes later he was sin-binned for a professional foul.
The Raiders scored and converted to take a 10-4 lead.
Packer returned in the 65th minute with the game still in the balance.
Here was his chance to make up for it.
His teammates had been working their butts off.
The Raiders are a classier side but the Tigers were playing with the resolve and determination that Maguire demanded with his powerful comments after the Titans game.
The two points were there for the taking.
Packer then did the unforgivable.
He smashed Raiders forward Joe Tapine with a swinging arm in easy kicking range for Jarrod Croker.
The penalty goal gave Canberra an eight-point buffer.
Not surprisingly, Maguire hooked his highest-paid forward.
This is such a disappointing story.
Packer has worked so hard to repair his reputation.
He went to jail for 12 months in 2014 for an assault but emerged a reformed man.
He turned his life around and completed an MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management.
The 30-year-old forward had become an advertisement for rugby league; how the game can stand by a player who has done the wrong thing and offer a pathway back.
Nothing can take away from what he has achieved.
Yet the six minutes of madness on Saturday night was so unnecessary.
It cost his side the chance of winning.
He's now facing a grade three careless high tackle charge and the possibility of a three-week suspension.
Twelve months is a long time to be sidelined when you're earning $15,000 a week at a struggling NRL club. He has a lot to make up to his teammates, his coach and his fans.
Originally published as Packer's unforgivable moment of madness