Aftermath of NRL’s off-season from hell
YOU honestly couldn't make it up.
Just when you thought every sponsor in the world was ready to turn its back on rugby league the embattled Cronulla Sharks announced their new jersey sponsor on Sunday.
Good on them for that but it was hard not to smile when you read the sponsors were in the business of making - wait for it - gutters.
Already I can hear rugby league's wicked humorists suggesting "gutters … perfect choice … is the sponsorship recognising the game's new home''?
Ace Gutters DURAKOTE have thrown their weight behind the Sharks, sticking admirably tight in tough times.
Their chief executive is a long time Sharks fan and in some ways this sponsorship is significant because rugby league, more than ever, may have to rely on old ties for new deals.
In the current climate of horrendous off-field behaviour you would not want to be a sponsorship manager of a rugby league club trying to find fresh dollars.
One disgruntled fan quipped last week that clubs should try a new form of advertising - tell major companies that unless they pay the club a fee their name will be printed across the front of their jerseys.
Rugby league is like a tropical town the morning after a cyclone.
Everyone can see the carnage. The question now is how much will the damages bill be.
The answer … bigger than the game can even imagine.
Cricket's ball-tampering affair cost David Warner and Steve Smith around $10 million and saw Australia lose sponsorship deals worth more than $20 million (though some were replaced).
It's been estimated league's atrocities will cost the game up to $10 million but rugby league won't truly know the fallout of its off-season from hell for several years until it analyses sponsorship revenue and junior registrations.
The 2019 season will be launched at a lunch in Brisbane on Monday and it's just the "rise and shine'' moment the game needs to put a line between an horrendous off-season and a winter which offers so many intriguing storylines.
Such as been the sordid nature of the last few months that many great tales have been buried or underplayed.
Penrith's Cleary family quest, Anthony Seibold's Broncos campaign, Wayne Bennett's union with Souths, Des Hasler's return to Manly, the Thurstonless Cowboys, Mal Meninga's Gold Coast journey, the Roosters being tipped for back-to-back titles are all captivating themes swamped by the game's behavioural crisis.
For all the new rules in place threatening players for misbehaving you wonder whether the greater challenge is further down the scale producing players with a greater sense of awareness and responsibility.
Cricket's ball-tampering affair and league's behavioural crisis may be different scandals but the common thread of a lack of player worldliness runs through both and fast bowler Josh Hazlewood's quotes on the Cape Town crisis could easily apply to league.
"It's a different time now where we're basically cricketers from the time we leave school and we don't really experience life outside of cricket and the cricket environment, back in those times they probably got out in the world, had a few jobs, learned a lot of life lessons,'' Hazlewood said.
"Now you go straight from school into a cricket environment and cricket is all you know."
And, sadly, that is often not enough.