In round 18 of the 2016 season Corey Norman was suspended for 8 weeks ruling him out of the rest of the season and crushing the finals hopes for the team due to the stand out season he was having individually. It had seemed, after a handful of off field indiscretions even before this moment that he had officially hit an all time low. Drug possession, a sex scandal and affiliation with criminals. The three brutal blows that killed the five eighth’s hopes of the “infamous” Dally M medal and labeled him an NRL bad boy for good. Unfairly perhaps though.
The details surrounding these issues don’t need to be explored as they have been far too many times before. The details of the 2016 season that have always deserved attention though are the ones after the suspension. The ones that are still happening now.
After a week from hell preparing for time on the sideline and preparing for media and fan backlash, the then 25 year old found himself at Penrith Stadium. Not only was he missing out on the opportunity to take home the prized “Battle of the West” title against a club rival like the Panthers but he had to also watch the way the season was going to unfold in front of him. A dramatic, gut wrenching 22-18 loss and the first of five losses for the remainder of the season. After the match, Norman walked out of the away sheds as many players do. This time it was different though. In the eyes of so many, he had a black cloud of controversy over his head. Penrith stadium is a stadium that many fans have come to adore and admire purely because the easy layout makes for a great photo opportunity outside the sheds. A situation that could have caused many players in Norman’s situation to wait back extra time or request an escort out the door purely to avoid the fanfare. Fans can be incredibly unpredictable after all. He didn’t do this though. In fact, he exited the sheds as soon as he could way before any other team mate and walked into a packed swarm of fans from both teams. He did not turn a single photo or autograph opportunity down. He was heckled, no doubt about it but he still laughed and smiled with every fan he could. He finished that horrible year on the sidelines but not once turned a fan away. While he did hide from the media, he didn’t hide from the people who keep this game so alive - the fans.
3 years later wearing the number 6 of a different club’s jersey on his back and at times, Norman still wants to hide from the media. Memories, speculation and unfortunately some evidence from that dreadful 2016 season still continue to haunt him. No matter what he does off the field it seems that some people will never see him as anything more than the mistakes he made back then. In some ways that can be the life of an NRL player. Whether it’s fair or not is a different conversation to be had but you can not deny the community work he has done off the field which never makes it into the spotlight.
Chris Vagg of Pass It On Clothing could possibly be one of the most vocal supporters of Norman and understandably so. Every week or so, you can see Corey Norman alone or with his mates helping Chris and everyone at this charitable organisation to put clothes on those less fortunate. In some ways he’s become a figurehead for the charity. He talks to those he’s helping. He finds ways to relate to them, whether it be sharing stories or laughs or even giving them a haircut. He cares about this organisation and cares about the people he’s helping.
Never once seen in the newspapers or spoken about amongst the media. What we do still see though, are headlines labelling St George as his “last chance” for redemption.
Last night however, one of his good deeds could not go unnoticed. In fact, fans are practically begging for those higher up to share the positivity.
After suffering his second loss for the season in only his second run out for the St George Dragons, Norman did a lap of Netstrata Jubilee Stadium to meet the fans of his new club and thank them for their support with photos and autographs. He happened upon a young teenage fan rocking some of his clothing line YKTR. The two shared a chat and when Norman discovered that the young lad didn’t have a way home, he offered him a ride. The boy of course, happily accepted. He waited for Norman while he cleaned himself up and mingled with other fans taking as many pictures as asked until finally the two went on their way.
The story flooded social media today as many fans and even players shared the story, praising Norman. Isaac John of their clothing line, made an Instagram post praising the positive media for his good friend. He did the talking, even though it be via Instagram, because Norman didn’t want to.
“I don’t think he personally really wants to publicise it. He's been doing plenty good in the community lately but that’s always been him.”
You can define Corey Norman by his mistakes if you want but that’s on you. A person’s indiscretions shouldn’t define who they are as a person and they definitely shouldn’t cloud the positive impact that person may have on the community and those around them.
This isn’t a redemption story because he shouldn’t need to redeem himself anymore. He’s been a good guy this whole time who’s just happened to make some mistakes - mistakes that haven’t hurt anyone else but himself.
Every fairytale needs a villain and unfortunately, it’s been far too easy for some people to paint Norman as the NRL’s villain when really he’s just a 28 year old larrikin asking if you know the rules and putting smiles on faces.