Everyone makes mistakes …

Granted most of those mistakes don’t result in the death of innocent people, and most people don’t go out with the intent to get into a fight on a Saturday night. I am in no way going to condone the actions of Kieran Loveridge. What he did was gutless, cowardly, unprovoked and irreversible. By punching a young man minding his own business in the back of the head he changed the course of many, many lives. Whether it was truly a mistake or patterned behaviour remains to be seen.

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Why write about this now? Andrew Fifita was this week issued with a formal police warning for consorting with a known criminal. This known criminal is Kieran Loveridge who is currently in Cessnock prison for the death of Thomas Kelly in the cowardly one punch attack.

I will declare that I am a Cronulla Sharks fan (fan is probably using the word lightly – the truth is my birth family bleeds black, white and blue) but I am still bemused by the attention that Andrew Fifita visiting a lifelong friend in jail is being given. According to the media Andrew has had the letters FKL on the tape on his arm in 7 rounds this season. Again, according to the media the letters stand for “Free Kieran Loveridge or possibly For Kieran Loveridge.” The truth is no-one knows what those letters stand for Andrew hasn’t said what they stand for. They could be anything at all. They could be motivational for Andrew, many players write words, letters, bible verses on their tape to see during a game.

I have done some searching this morning there is no evidence that apart from visiting a lifelong friend in jail Andrew has done anything more than that. Granted in most people’s eyes this lifelong friend is a dick and he didn’t just make a mistake he set out to kill someone (which he didn’t but he was heard to say that he wanted to get into a fight.) But if everyone abandoned their friends when they made mistakes what kind of world would we live in.

I heard Kerry Chikarovski on the tv this morning, she was a former Shadow Minister for Corrective Services so she knows a little about jail and prisoners. Fundamentally it is also about what is jail about. There are absolutely some prisoners who should never come out of jail, and granted some sections of the community are likely to think that Kieran Loveridge is one of those. But what the research and studies show that those prisoners who are least likely to re-offend and to turn their lives around on release are those with a strong support network of family and friends.

No-one is privy to the conversations that Andrew and Kieran have had. What we do know is that Andrew may not be the smartest bloke on the block. We know that he has the tendency to be a thug on and off the field, we also know that he has publicly spoken about his battle with depression and we know that he is a devout family man. We don’t know why his is visiting Kieran for any other reason than they are mates that go way back.

I guess for me this is a kind of a touchy subject. I have made mistakes and granted I am not in jail, but these mistakes or poor choices or out of character behaviours whatever you want to refer to them as are most certainly enough for people to change their opinion of me. And what I know for certain is that without the love and support of my family and so many beautiful friends I would not be here today to write about anything.

The truth is that whilst most people won’t go out to commit major crimes the big ones that will live with you forever. But equally most people commit some form of crime that could land them in jail in their lifetime and it is just there but for the grace that it isn’t us behind bars. Things like swearing in public or stepping into a public fountain are offences that could give you a criminal record. Equally there are many driving offences that could not only give you a criminal record but also land you in jail. In Victoria you can be given a criminal driving offence if you break any road rule!

All I am saying is that before we judge Andrew Fifita for supporting a mate (and as he has reportedly said many of his mates are in jail) let’s be rational about things. There needs to be a big distinction between consorting with criminals on a regular basis in public, like James Segeyaro & Junior Paulo. Or being close mates with former brothel owner and controversial gambler (with possible links to the suspected Manly match fixing) Eddie Hayson like Kieran Foran and visiting a mate who is currently in jail.

Equally what about all the St George players who train and play with Russell Packer. On 6 January 2014, Packer was sentenced to two years in jail after pleading guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm. What he actually did was punched a 22yr old in the face causing him to fall to the ground, hit his head, he then punched the victim a couple more times and stomped on his head while on the ground! There but for the grace … the injuries to the victim weren’t worse than some broken bones to his face.

Packer by all accounts was a model prisoner and was able to get his sentence reduced to one year non parole on appeal. On release from jail Russell was hoping to break back into the NRL. The immigration laws had also recently been changed which meant that anyone with a criminal record that also had a native country to return to could be deported. There were fears that Packer would be deported, but he wasn’t and he managed to score a two year contract with St George Dragons, which is likely to be renewed due to his onfield performances. Does this mean that all the players at the Dragons are not meant to associate with Russell as he is a convicted criminal?  Of course not and it is ludicrous to even suggest it. Russell is studying youth work in the hopes of working with young adults to steer them clear of making poor decisions like he did. That doesn’t change the fact that he was out he assaulted a young man and he went to jail, my point is do we judge him based on what he did or what he is trying to do with his life? We should judge him on what he is doing now and not the poor choices he has made. Everyone deserves the opportunity to turn their lives around and everyone deserves the support of their mates.

All I am trying to say that it isn’t as simple as walking away from your friends at a time in their life that they need you the most. I also know from personal experience of burying far too many of my own loved ones that no amount of blame and punishment will bring them back to life. But should Andrew Fifita be punished for having a friend with poor judgement, I don’t think so.

Remember everyone makes poor choices even the best people, it is time we were judged by what happens after that.

 

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