Covenant is what keeps civilisation civilised

CONTRACTED: Father Brendan Lee was disappointed by Penrith's poaching of Tigers coach Ivan Cleary. Picture: Edwina Pickles

CONTRACTED: Father Brendan Lee was disappointed by Penrith's poaching of Tigers coach Ivan Cleary. Picture: Edwina Pickles

I loved playing rugby league as boy. Unfortunately my parents didn’t, and they refused to sign any permission note allowing me to play.

Game after game, I sadly sat on the sideline. Finally, a decision was reached that brought peace of mind to all parties.

It was decided that I would sign all the school permission notes allowing me to play rugby league by forging my father’s signature on each of the permission notes, and that neither my father nor mother would ever be informed of this decision. 

Now, like all scoundrels, I’m going to blame someone else for the above crimes. My mother.

She once saw my writing and said “You know, you write like your father.” 

As far as I’m concerned, Mum put the idea in my impressionable young mind that I could write like Dad.

And given that my school accepted the bogus permission notes, she was obviously right.

Sadly, I was eventually exposed. The worst part is, I only got busted because I was getting good.

You see, my coach and teacher, Mr Positive Reinforcement, went and told my mother how good I was getting at rugby league.

Why, oh why, couldn’t he have told her about how bad I was getting at doing what I was told? I would have actually preferred that!

And what about all the homework I wasn’t doing? Surely that was far more important!

I ended up studying contracts law as part of my sub-major at university.

But to this day, I have no idea of the legal status of those forged permission notes had I been seriously injured or maimed – a real possibility in rugby league.

True, Dad didn’t sign them ... but hey, they were great forgeries!

Rugby league has spawned many a controversial contract in its day.

The game itself was born from a schism with rugby union in 1895 England, when players wanted to be paid. I think that’s very reasonable.

However, avarice often plagues those in rugby league.

Think back to the Super League war when organisers placed advertisements advising players who had signed with the Australian Rugby League that their contracts might be set aside.

They aimed at securing 200 core players by offering them huge salaries.

Super League ended up signing a whopping 307 players and 10 coaches.

And, sadly, rugby league in Australia was very much in trouble. 

Last week, yet again, what would be a penalty in most other sports played out in rugby league with such ease.

The National Rugby League’s own website shared news of the Penrith Panthers offering a coaching position for next year to West Tigers coach Ivan Cleary – even though Cleary still has 2½ years of his tenure left to serve.

Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe rightfully revealed: “I'm bitterly disappointed that a rival club has decided that it's appropriate practice to try and poach a coach with 2½ years left on his contract.” 

Do we really want to live in a civilisation where people can break their written word?

If we do, I’m musing our civilisation won’t remain civilised for very long.

What is the difference between civilisation and the jungle? Covenant.

What began thousands of years ago with agreements like “we won’t kill your tribe if you don’t kill ours” and “you can live here in peace if we can live there in peace” has become the signature on contracts, and thus the confidence that has built everything that makes our lives safe and secure. 

I have no sons or daughters, even though thousands call me “Father”.

But if I did, I’m not sure that I would sign a permission note allowing them to play rugby league.

Not for fear of broken bones, but rather broken hearts from broken promises, for these take so much longer to heal. 

Twitter: @frbrendanelee

Do we really want to live in a civilisation where people can break their written word? If we do, I’m musing our civilisation won’t remain civilised for very long. What began ... with agreements like “we won’t kill your tribe if you don’t kill ours” ... has become the signature on contracts, and thus the confidence that has built everything that makes our lives safe and secure.