Greg Prichard August 15, 2006 COMMENT HOW did it come to this, the world's greatest player being charged with doing something so stupid it could ruin both his and Newcastle's season? The answer is simple. Part of the reason is Johns's volatile personality on the field; the rest of it is the failure of the people in charge of the club to pull him into line when they should have. Had they done that, maybe what happened at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Friday night would not have. At the very least, it would have reduced the possibility. Let's go back to when the Knights should have acted: the night of Saturday, July 8, at Parramatta Stadium. A presentation of the match ball to Johns was planned - with his knowledge - in anticipation of the halfback picking up the handful of points he needed to become the highest pointscorer in premiership history. The Eels were happy for the presentation to go ahead, win, lose or draw - and at that stage of the season, they were looking like competition also-rans. Few expected Parramatta to win, but win they did, and at the end of the game, Johns, who had broken the record, stormed off, leaving Eels media manager Damian Kelly and coach Jason Taylor standing there looking awkward. It was an awful display of petulance from Johns and one that should have resulted in immediate action by the Knights. Club chairman Michael Tyler, chief executive Ken Conway or anyone in authority should have taken Johns aside and encouraged him to return to the field for the presentation. They should have demanded it of him if they had to. But no one did, of course, because no one at Newcastle tells Joey what to do. And that is part of the problem. In any walk of life, when you do something wrong and you're not held accountable, you can end up becoming a law unto yourself. And then you run the risk of going too far. Please, spare us the passion card when it comes to the defence of Johns. Paul Harragon, who captained Johns at the Knights and is now one of the club's board members, played it on The Sunday Footy Show. Harragon said we should have empathy for Johns because of the competitor he is. Come on, Chief. We know Joey is a ferocious competitor, that he busts his backside for his team, that he absolutely despises losing. But that is no excuse for abusing match officials, whether they have made a mistake or not. There are plenty of other players just as passionate who haven't fallen into the same trap. I didn't have a problem with Johns swearing in reaction to a critical decision that went against the Knights in a game against Melbourne recently, because he didn't direct his comments at anyone. The fact that what he said could be heard on Sports Ears and television is the NRL's problem. If they want to use the technology, that's what they are going to get sometimes. But this case is different. The match review committee certainly didn't miss Johns. Three or four games might be considered harsh. But if he hadn't gone off, he wouldn't be in trouble. It wasn't passionate. It was just plain dumb.