The irony of Corey Norman being described as “troubled” in the scores of media reports that chronicled his very rugby league tale of drugs and courts and extortion for a sex tape in 2016 is that the man himself was troubled very little.
Bit embarrassed, maybe. Inconvenienced? Sure – there were so many paparazzi outside his house he couldn’t get out to get groceries. But “troubled”? All that shit ran off him like rain.
Not to say he wasn’t annoyed. He went hungry before a game against Melbourne Storm because he couldn’t get to the shops. He had to scuttle away from training. You’d rather not be in the middle of a shit-storm that so publicly broadcasts you fronting, courts, cameras, the NRL’s Integrity Unit, your club’s board, your coach, and so on.
But the way Corey Norman handled himself through the greater process was … well, it was actually pretty cool.
For whether he’s strolling the ‘hood in his hoodie, running out for the Dragons Friday night at the ‘Gong, or kicking back on the couch with his pals, laughin’, raggin’ on each other, Corey Norman is nonchalance writ large. His is elite-level nonchalance. And all that stuff with the media, the police – pfff. Wear it, tough it out. Move on. Be cool.
Watch his “vlogs” – little video advertorials (below) for the clothing brand he founded with mates James Segeyaro and Isaac John. It’s like Being Lara Bingle except it’s Corey Norman in trackie pants, having a punt, having a feed, cracking wise, tooling about town looking cool, not “strutting”, just loping along in his streetwear, doing whatever he likes. And the kicker for your aspirational Millennial Man: he looks cool.
Too cocky for you? Don’t like his smirk? No respect for authoritah? Friend, do your best and think what it’sl like for a 24-year-old sporto embroiled in such a public scandal as the 2016 imbroglio. Put yourself in these shoes…
You’ve never had a job. You’ve never had a dad. You grew up in housing commission brought up by your mum, a hero, who worked in a petrol station because she was too proud for handouts. You’re about as worldly as a young Malcolm Roberts. The furthest you’ve been is New Zealand on a footy trip. All you’ve ever been good at is sport. And then you deal with all that shit. See how you go.
Remember that bit in the movie The Insider? Russell Crowe and his wife have a tiff in a restaurant and the old news guy asks, “Who are these people?” And Al Pacino replies: “Ordinary people under extraordinary pressure, Mike. What the hell do you expect? Grace and consistency?”
So when you actually think about how 24-year-old Corey Norman conducted himself through his couple months’ in the angry, white glare of the media’s searchlights with all the moral opprobrium of a league-consuming public as unforgiving as any lynch mob, then, well, Corey Norman handled himself with more grace and consistency than most of us would.
Drugs? Sex tape? What? What happened was this:
in May of 2016, Norman was invited to The Star in Sydney for a Chinese feed with some mates-of-mates described to him as “Parra fans”. Among them, unbeknownst to our Corey, was a former boss of the Nomads and an alleged fraudster. There were also several swarthy dudes with those Amish-sort-of beards which are scary for sections of middle Australia, who may be fine with those bushy Ned Kelly jobs favoured by baristas, but remain piss-frightened of no-moustache beards as worn by ISIS and rape gangs.
Perhaps you saw this photo (above), naively posted to Junior Paulo’s Instagram page. There’s our Corey, mugging, making some sign with thumb and little finger. Lazy Susan in the middle, chockers with dumplings, honey prawns. To Norman it was a boys’ night out, a bunch of blokes having a feed. To casino security staff it was red flags all round. It was all they could look at on CCTV. Ding-ding-ding, all squads to sector seven.
For there they were, three famous footballers, a boss of the Nomads, and a guy who’d been charged with the very “casino” crime of money laundering. And all those T-shirts, tatts and beards - particularly the beards. Security would’ve had to watch.
And so their state-of-the-art peeping-Tom machines recorded one of the beardies handing something to Corey Norman who stuffed it in his pocket. Later it recorded Norman opening the thing and handing something of its contents to someone else. And so they bailed up Corey Norman with a “random” metal detector check and found a plastic tub. And types asked him – what’s in this? And Corey Norman replied: “MDMA”.
Police were alerted. Consorting with criminals notices were issued. And from there, well, you know, a very rugby league clusterfuck ensued.
Todd Greenberg stated that it was a “bad look for the game”. NRL head office is aware of their “look” at all times. It’s why Mitchell Pearce’s dopey thing with the poodle copped $120k while Corey Norman was slugged but $20k. The NRL is aware of “community standards”. But it’s acutely aware of the power of long-reaching negative press. Pearce’s thing made news in America. Last thing before that, Dr Hopoate’s ad hoc prostate clinics.
And so Corey Norman fronted police, courts, the Eels’ board, his coach, the Integrity Unit. Made sure his mum knew his truth before she could read any of the bullshit on Facebook. And he squared it all away. And as he peeked through the curtains of his townhouse after some grub wanted $150,000 for a sex tape featuring Norman and Chicko Segeyaro, the man wondered to himself: “Who can I ring to bring me some food?”
Couple years ago I met him in a cafe in Putney by the Parramatta River and talked of all this malarkey, and footy, and Corey Norman. He was early, smiling, wearing a cool, black print T-shirt with “YTKR” on the front (his brand, “You Know The Rules”) and a royal blue LA Dodgers cap. He looked fit and fat-free without being muscular; a gym-head more into the rower than heavy metal. And then he sat and ordered coffee, bacon and eggs with avocado, hold the toast. I had the same (for which he paid). Then I turned on the tape and lived an hour inside the head of the coolest dude in rugby league.