THE recent controversy surrounding Australian cricket captain Tim Paine raises many questions around morality, expectations, responsibilities and accepting the mantle of a role model.

The reactions, unsurprisingly, have been polarising, depending on one’s own moral perspective, life experiences, sexual behaviour and cultural influences.

It has been said that the role of Australian cricket captain is second only in importance to the Australian people to that of Prime Minister, such is the esteem in which it is held.

As in any case, the best manner to understanding the unfolding of events in this crisis is to understand the history from its onset, with the information available, both old and new.

Tim Paine recently made the decision to voluntarily relinquish the Australian captaincy.

His motive to do so, and the timing, appeared to have been more determined by the impending release of salacious sexting between Paine and a female Cricket Tasmania staffer in 2017, rather than any moral conflict.

Paine sent a former Cricket Tasmania employee a “d*** pic” and a series of lewd messages on the eve of the 2017/18 Ashes series.

The woman alleged she was offended by “Mr Paine’s sexually explicit, unwelcome and unsolicited photograph of his genitals in addition to the graphic sexual comments”.

Speaking to media in Hobart on Friday afternoon, Paine confirmed he had stepped down as Australian Test captain with immediate effect. The emotional 36-year-old also said his wife was already aware of the incident.

“It’s an incredibly difficult decision, but the right one for me, my family, and cricket,” he said.

“Nearly four years ago, I was involved in a text exchange with a then-colleague. At the time, the exchange was the subject of a thorough CA Integrity Unit investigation, throughout which I fully participated in and openly participated in. That investigation and a Cricket Tasmania HR investigation at the same time found that there had been no breach of the Cricket Australia Code of Conduct.

“Although exonerated, I deeply regretted this incident at the time, and still do today. I spoke to my wife and family at the time and am enormously grateful for their forgiveness and support.

“We thought this incident was behind us and that I could focus entirely on the team, as I have done for the last three or four years. However, I recently became aware that this private text exchange was going to become public.

“On reflection, my actions in 2017 do not meet the standard of an Australian cricket captain, or the wider community. I’m deeply sorry for the hurt and pain that I have caused to my wife, my family, and to the other party.

“I’m sorry for any damage that this does to the reputation of our sport. And I believe that it is the right decision for me to stand down as captain, effective immediately. I do not want this to become an unwelcome disruption to the team ahead of what is a huge Ashes series.

“I have loved my role as captain of the Australian cricket team. It’s been the greatest privilege of my sporting life to lead the Australian men’s Test team. I’m grateful for the support of my teammates and proud of what we’ve been able to achieve together. To them, I ask for their understanding and forgiveness.

“To Australian cricket fans — I’m deeply sorry that my past behaviour has impacted our game on the eve of the Ashes. For the disappointment I have caused to fans and the entire cricket community, I apologise.

“I’ve been blessed with a wonderful, loving and supportive family, and it breaks my heart to know how much I’ve let them down. They have always stood by me, been my most loyal fans, and I’m indebted to them for their support.

“I will remain a committed member of the Australian cricket team, and look forward with anticipation to what is a huge Ashes tour.”

There are some key points of concern in the statement.

If Paine believes now that his actions in 2017 were morally incongruent with the expected role of an Australian captain or player, then how and why did he agree to become Australia’s next captain after the Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft cheating scandal in South Africa in 2018?

Moreover, what does “exonerated” actually mean? What is the Code Of Conduct expected by Cricket Australia and its board regarding the behaviour of its players?

Paine married his wife Bonnie in 2016, and the couple have two children together — Milla and Charlie.

His wife was pregnant during his sexting episode in 2017. Paine was 32 at the time. The “other woman” was 42, divorced with two children.

Paine has played 35 Tests for Australia since making his international debut in 2009, scoring 1534 runs and claiming 157 dismissals in the game’s longest format.

He became Australia’s 46th Test captain after the infamous ball-tampering saga in 2018, taking over from Steve Smith. The Tasmanian led Australia during the 2019 Ashes series, where the Aussies retained the coveted trophy on foreign soil for the first time in 18 years.

Paine had been recovering from neck surgery and initially he would recover in time for December’s Gabba Test.

However, it has recently emerged that Paine has withdrawn from the selection process citing mental health issues as a not surprising consequence of his admission and its aftermath.

CA chairman Richard Freudenstein initially supported Paine’s availability for the upcoming Ashes series.

“Tim felt it was in the best interests of his family and Australian cricket to take this decision to step down as captain,” Freudenstein said.

“The Board has accepted Tim’s resignation and will now work through a process with the National Selection Panel of identifying and appointing a new captain.

“While the Board acknowledges an investigation cleared Tim of any breach of the code of conduct regarding this matter some years ago, we respect his decision.

“CA does not condone this type of language or behaviour.

“Despite the mistake he made, Tim has been an exceptional leader since his appointment and the Board thanks him for his distinguished service.

“Tim will continue to be available for selection in the Test team through the Ashes summer.”

This of course, has now changed with Paine’s indefinite leave of absence.

Cricket Tasmania said it will “continue to support Tim and his family both professionally and personally over the summer”.

Paine’s manager James Henderson tweeted: “Confirming that @tdpaine36 is stepping away from cricket for an indefinite mental health break. We are extremely concerned for his and Bonnie’s well-being and will be making no further comment at this time.”

Cricket Tasmania boss Dominic Baker told ABC radio in Hobart: “It’s a traumatic event for him … a week ago he was the Australian captain so these things take time. I think he’s done the right thing, he’s prioritising his welfare and the welfare of his family.”

The fallout has been particularly devastating for Paine’s wife Bonnie and his family. She has shown remarkable strength and support of her husband given her previous knowledge of his betrayal.

Bonnie recently spoke out about the scandal, saying she felt sorry her husband was being forced to re-live a shameful moment from his past he deeply regrets.

“I have a bit of sympathy for Tim. A lot actually. He and I went through all of this privately in 2018,” she lamented.

“I feel a bit frustrated that it’s all been brought up and aired in the public when we put it to bed years ago. I have moved forward since then. I feel like there is a lot of injustice for it being dragged out again.”

Bonnie said she was “completely rocked” to find out about the sexting scandal in 2018 and added she found it extremely tough to watch Paine’s emotional press conference last Friday.

“It broke my heart to be honest,” Bonnie said. “It’s sad that he felt he had to step down as captain over it, and I just think that’s unfair. I felt sad for him.

“My trust was a bit shattered from it and learning to try and trust again, was a process. I had my doubts, and there were times where I wanted to leave, and there were times I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. It was very confusing. It did take a long time for us to be strong again, and for us to be in a good place, but we are now.”

As much as one can understand her love of her husband, it appears naïve of her to believe the effect on the Australian public once news of the scandal emerged.

It may have been “dealt with” years ago by the couple through the CA’s investigation, and privately, but not by a sensitive and hurting cricket fraternity that were still reeling from “sandpaper gate.”

Paine was brought in as a messiah of sorts. A healer of wounds. Someone with integrity that could be entrusted to weave together a moral fabric that would cleanse Australian cricket’s brand and resurrect it from the ashes.

It is serendipity that the brand is now back in the ashes, before the ashes series against the old enemy, England, who also have had to deal with its own scandal involving racism claims.

Just how Cricket Australia believed it could rebuild its reputation from a flawed foundation is incredulous.

Such was the belief, and desperation it seems, to anoint Tim Paine.

And from that perspective, Paine has done an admirable job on and off the field. Although at times, his sledging and interviews could be somewhat surly.

If Cricket Australia hoped that would be the end of the haemorrhaging, they were deeply mistaken.

Cricket Tasmania accused Cricket Australia of treating Tim Paine “appallingly” over the texting scandal that led to the Test captain’s resignation. In a scathing statement on Tuesday, Cricket Tasmania chair Andrew Gaggin condemned the national governing body’s handling of the controversy and indicated it had not gone down well in Paine’s home state.

“In conversations I have had in recent days it is clear that the anger amongst the Tasmanian cricket community and general public is palpable,” Gaggin said. “Tim Paine has been a beacon for Australian cricket over the past four years and instrumental in salvaging the reputation of the national team after the calamity of Cape Town.

“Yet, at a time when [Cricket Australia] should have supported Tim, he was evidently regarded as dispensable. The treatment afforded to the Australian Test captain by Cricket Australia has been appalling, and the worst since Bill Lawry over 50 years ago.”

Cricket Tasmania became aware of the text messages in 2018 – some months after Paine had been made Test captain in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal – and a subsequent investigation cleared the wicketkeeper of any breach of Cricket Australia’s code of conduct.

Cricket Australia immediately accepted Paine’s resignation.

Significantly, after being criticised over its initial handling of the affair, Cricket Australia chair Richard Freudenstein said the current board would have stripped him of the captaincy at the time of the investigation.

Implying that standards today are very different to just a few years ago, even though the current board has been aware of the situation for some time and also failed in its purported governance.

But following a meeting on Monday, Gaggin on Tuesday reiterated the Cricket Tasmania board’s view that Paine “should not have been put in a position where he felt the need to resign over an incident that was determined by an independent inquiry at the time to not be a breach of the code of conduct and was a consensual and private exchange that occurred between two mature adults and was not repeated”.

Clearly, Cricket Tasmania has taken a more legalistic view of the incident rather than a moralistic one. Whether it would adopt the same position for someone who was not a favourite son and from another state is debatable.

This is even more dubious given the other sub-plots that emerged.

Paine’s brother-in-law, Shannon Tubb, married to Paine’s sister, was also guilty of sexting the same woman.

The former Tasmanian Shield cricketer Shannon Tubb was reportedly forced out of Cricket Tasmania amid a sexting probe involving the same woman.

Tubb left his coaching position after investigations into X-rated messages sent to the woman, a junior staffer, who former Australian Test captain Paine sent an unsolicited photo of his genitalia to.

After he left Cricket Tasmania, Tubb was appointed as coach of the first XI at Adelaide’s Prince Alfred College.

Cricket Tasmania’s investigation into Tubb’s texts took place in mid-2018 as did Cricket Australia’s inquiry into Paine’s messages.

She also claimed that Mr Paine’s brother-in-law Mr Tubb, allegedly wrote messages to her, including: “I want to put my c*** in between your t***.”

He also allegedly wrote: “You made me hard today, I know you noticed.”

Another message said: “Send me something, I want to play with myself.”

“F*** your t*** look massive today,” it was claimed Mr Tubb also wrote in a message posted on Snapchat.

The woman at the centre of the sexting scandal that prompted the resignation of former Australian Test cricket captain Tim Paine has today filed a sexual harassment claim against Cricket Tasmania in the Federal Court.

She is Renee Ferguson, 47, and has revealed that she complained about sexual harassment in the office prior to her decision to resign from her job – but the prior complaint did not relate to Mr Paine or his brother-in-law but another man in the office.

An investigation into the matter by Cricket Tasmania previously found the exchange of texts between the woman and Mr Paine was consensual. But lawyers for the woman say she was never interviewed.

In a 17-page document filed in the Federal Court, lawyers acting for the woman have lodged an originating application under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act for sexual harassment.

It includes a claim that she previously raised a complaint of sexual harassment regarding another Cricket Tasmania employee with the Human Resources manager. This complaint did not relate to Mr Paine.

She later resigned from her role at Cricket Tasmania after she was accused of stealing. She was charged in relation to that matter and will face the Tasmanian Magistrates Court in January.

The legal document also outlines a range of sexualised banter that she was subjected to in her job, including being told, “Get on snap you mole,” a reference to Snapchat, in a conversation with Mr Paine’s brother-in-law Shannon Tubb.

The texts emerged last week after the Herald Sun obtained the correspondence between the woman and Tim Paine that occurred in late 2017.

“We’re both f***ed if this got out,” the woman texted Mr Paine.

Mr Paine then sent an image of his penis with the caption, “True, so f***ed,” in reference to the messages becoming public.

He also told the woman: “I’m about to give something firm a pull, myself I think (wink emoji). Well I was going to anyway ha.”

The woman then attempted to change the subject, saying: “Ha, sorry I’m getting ready for work … it’s a big day for us kids.”

Paine responded: “Will you want to taste my ***? F*** me, I’m seriously hard.”

The woman again tried to move the conversation on, texting: “I thought we were resting hands???”

Paine continued: “Can’t rest them when I’m this hard! Need to ease the tension … Finish me off with those lips then. (Wink emoji) #trust.”

The woman resigned from Cricket Tasmania in 2017.

Meanwhile, Candace Warner, the beleaguered wife of Australian opening batsman David Warner, had her say on the matter.

She accused Cricket Australia of “double standards” in allowing Paine to remain eligible for selection, prior to his self-imposed exile.

“They’re basically saying that it’s not okay for an Australian cricket captain to send these messages, but it’s okay for an Australian player,” Warner said on 2GB radio.

“As a wife of an Australian player, that is slightly concerning and it does make me worry.

“They’re basically saying that it’s not okay for an Australian cricket captain to send these messages, but it’s okay for an Australian player,” Warner said.

“As a wife of an Australian player, that is slightly concerning and it does make me worry.”

It has also emerged that Tim Paine revealed Justin Langer tried to convince him to remain captain, despite news of the wicketkeeper’s lewd text message scandal about to emerge.

Paine insisted it was his decision to resign and he wasn’t pushed.

“It was hard, but I know it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

“I feel completely gutted, but it’s all my doing, and I know resigning is the right call.

“JL (Justin Langer) told me he’s devastated.

“He was pretty firm that he wanted me to continue as captain, and again, once I explained to him the reasons that I thought resigning was the best thing to do, he was with me all the way.

“I’ve got messages from all my teammates saying they’ve got my back, and that we all make mistakes, and we move on,” he added, insisting none of them had prior knowledge of the incident.

Langer wanted Paine to stay on as captain when the scandal first surfaced and backed him to stay in the side as wicket-keeper when the leadership role became untenable.

He was shattered Paine needed to undergo further scrutiny and suffer the consequences for an offence he was cleared of years ago.

And is seething about the treatment afforded the 36-yer-old, believing the media’s relentless pursuit of his former skipper combined with Cricket Australia’s poor handling of the situation ended the career of a fundamentally good man.

It is likely that Langer is a dead man walking.

So where does one sit on the whole issue? Who is to blame and for what?

Just like that other Messiah opined two thousand years ago, “let those without sin cast the first stone.”

We live in society of rapid change, ambiguity, gender fluidity and immediate gratification.\

Where the rights of the one outweighs those of the many.

How to judge Paine for his actions? In the end, we are all responsible for the choices we make. Just why felt the need to flirt with an older woman when his partner of several years was pregnant with his first child is the question.

Was he unhappy, or sexually frustrated? Was it a reflection of his male ego and selfishness that his impulses abandoned any semblance of foresight and appreciation of the impending pain on himself, wife and family?

And by his own admission, that it was inevitable that the affair would eventually find its way to the Australian public?

Was Paine so narcissistic that he thought time would be on his side, that the fallout would be minimal, that he could rely on retrospective remorse and “exoneration” by those in charge?

These were not the acts of an entitled adolescent, who themselves are under increasing scrutiny for inappropriate sexual behaviour, social media use and the objectification of women.

But surely questions must be raised about the credibility of the woman involved, and on the receiving end of at least three cases of sexual banter if not harassment.

One thing is true, there are no winners from this tragedy.

The psychological effects on all and sundry can be severe and profound.

That is why the mental health of all concerned should be of the utmost importance and adequate measures taken to provide ongoing support.

Especially since it now appears headed for the courts and a protracted process.

And what of the average Australian cricket fan?

Anger or understanding? What are the expectations of any sports person in terms of their behaviour both on and off the field?

Is the concept of a role model, especially in the form of leadership, an outdated concept? Or does it need redefining given the changes we have seen in society and mental health issues over the past few years?

Rather than look to sports men and women for guidance, perhaps it is up to the individual to search within themselves to define their morality first and foremost.

 

Image via skysports.com

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