By NEIL CADIGAN
It was not just an award, and a very popular one. It wasn’t just recognition that Luke Douglas is a consistent, professional role model.
The awarding of the Paul Broughton Medal, bestowed upon the Titans’ player of the year, to Luke Douglas last night was a symbol of redemption as much as anything.
And a reward for how he found focus and tolerance after a dark period in his otherwise unblemished career.
A year ago ‘Dougie’ was a shattered man. He’d reluctantly accepted a ban applied by the NRL to those Cronulla players from 2011 who were judged to have inadvertently taken banned substances.
Until late November he had to train away from his teammates, often alone. He spent time back in Yamba, where he grew up and became idolised as a local hero, reluctant to go out in public as he wondered whether those in the community may see him as a drug cheat.
Anyone who knows Luke Douglas also knows he would never knowingly do anything that breaks the rules; nor follow any shortcut nor do anything to defy his meticulous preparation in wanting to be the best role model possible in sport.
He is humble, and a self-confessed “battler” as a workhorse front-rower. He never seeks attention but he is happy to declare that he wants to make a difference in people’s lives. The video interview accompanying this story explains his viewpoint.
While others may shake off the tag as an unwanted aspect of being a high profile sports person, Luke Douglas willingly accepts that being a ‘role model’ is more than a responsibility, but an opportunity that he wants. It motivates him.
And when he walked to the stage last night to have Paul Broughton place the medal around his neck, the ovation from the crowd said it all.
Many understood how the scandal he landed in 13 months earlier had affected him. And how single-mindedly yet privately he put it behind him without a word of defiance or blame.
Next could be the Ken Stephen Medal, awarded next Monday night at the Dally M awards to the NRL player deemed the model to others for work in the community.
In between time he would have had a brief and belated honeymoon in Bali with wife Adele who he married in mid-February.
Typical of Dougie, he squeezed in the holiday between last night’s award and Monday’s in Sydney, having to cut short and rearrange his honeymoon accommodation when the Ken Stephen Medal announcement was rescheduled for Dally M night instead of the One Community awards five nights later.
Just so he wasn’t letting anyone down.
He and Adele were in the car driving to Brisbane airport at 6am this morning, their trip extended by a nervous 90 minutes because of an M1 truck accident (they arrived just on time).
Luke Douglas would have taken it in his stride (well, he would have been sweating with worry for a while) as he has had to with several things in the past two years – the death of his mother Trish in 2013, the ASADA episode that culminated with his 215-game unbroken run being stopped and tarnished, and the dramas surrounding the Titans in the past year or so.
Yet he will be sitting in the sun at Bali this afternoon satisfied at having been crowned player of the year at two clubs – Cronulla and Gold Coast (as has Greg Bird) – after winning the Sharks’ Monty Porter Medal in 2009.
Playing finals football for the Titans is a greater goal for him than winning individual recognition; that’s what’s driving him now.
Well, that as well as being a good person others look up to … but he’d already achieved that before last night.
Click the PLAY button above to see Luke Douglas receive the Broughton Medal and a wonderful interview conducted soon after.