By now I think everyone has read about, and formed an opinion on, the story that has engulfed the Penrith Panthers and star forward Bryce Cartwright this week.
This story has more twists and turns than a John Grisham novel and I can assure you, we’re far from knowing all of the ins and outs.
Let’s try to break down some of the issues surrounding the situation.
Is the story in the public interest?
The short answer is no. However, the Sunday Telegraph managed to find the link to Lou Zivanovic and given his long-term association with the club, felt they had the angle to the story that made it worthy of publication.
The problem is that Zivanovic is not officially connected to the club and certainly wasn’t representing the club in the discussions between Cartwright and the woman, swinging it back to being a private matter.
Zivanovic is a close friend of the Cartwright family, hence his involvement.
A number of senior league journalists believe the Telegraph had no right to run the story in the first place.
What took Panthers so long to respond?
While there can be no denying that this story is murky and some morals deserve to be questioned, it also has all the traits of a classic stitch-up job.
From what I’ve been told, the first time that the Sunday Telegraph journalist contacted the Panthers asking for a comment on this story was on Saturday afternoon, a couple of hours before the side’s match against St George-Illawarra and just a handful of hours before the paper’s deadline.
In short there was simply not enough time for the Panthers to investigate the claims, respond properly and add balance to the story (or indeed confirm its accuracy).
When you’re playing such a dangerous game with somebody’s personal life, it only seems fair that they be given an adequate chance to respond, especially given it seems a lot of time, effort and research went in to the story from the woman’s point of view.
The fact that the journalist left it so late to even alert the other party to the story is simply unfair and essentially left the Panthers and Cartwright out to dry.
Did the Panthers really not know?
Plenty of people are keen to believe that the Panthers were aware of the $50,000 contract relating to the abortion, but the club has gone to huge lengths to get the message across that the Board and management knew nothing of the deal.
There is no reason to suggest they’re not telling the truth. Lou Zivanovic has also confirmed he didn’t tell Panthers about the contract.
However, officials at the club may well be asking how such a deal involving one of its star players and a former player with strong connections to the club happens without at least being brought to their attention.
In addition, versions of this story have been floating around on social media for some time – so it’s interesting that the Panthers were caught by surprise.
Why won’t the NRL get involved?
Despite what they say there is no doubt that the NRL is monitoring the situation, albeit from a far. They simply aren’t going to ignore consecutive days of bad press.
However, at its core this is a private matter between Cartwright and the woman. The woman has not lodged a complaint with the NRL.
Rugby league is wearing a black eye over this story but Cartwright isn’t the first young man to be faced with an unexpected pregnancy and I assure you he will not be the last.
The conversation of abortion and unexpected pregnancies unfortunately happens in lounge rooms across Australia more often than we would like.
The way Cartwright handled this may well have been poor but he’s done nothing that would require the code’s governing body to officially step in.
Is there more to the story?
Possibly. There’s strong whispers that there is “another set of facts” associated with the saga that have not yet been discussed or brought to light.
Everyone is being very careful however as it’s obviously a sensitive issue.
Lou Zivanovic raised a number of points on his Facebook page this week, which may well open the door to further scrutiny of the woman’s story.
The whole thing is problematic as Cartwright doesn’t wish to get into a public slanging match over a private issue. Even if certain facts are in dispute, there’s question marks over whether airing those points publicly would be of any real benefit.
What should Cartwright do now?
At some stage, he may need to speak publicly. His reputation has taken a significant hit and when the time is right, he needs to stand up and own the situation. It would be an enormous step for the young man but one he needs to take.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.