Ryan Tandy: Rugby league player whose career was overshadowed by personal demons and who was banned for match-fixing

The death at the age of 32 of Ryan Tandy brings to a tragic end one of the most turbulent of rugby league careers – one in which the high points were heavily outweighed by the low. The prop forward played at the highest level on both sides of the world, won a Grand Final in Australia and represented Ireland in a World Cup. He will be remembered primarily, however, for being banned from the game for life for a ham-fisted attempt at match-fixing to try to pay off his gambling debts. An addiction to gambling was one of the demons that pursued him, but it was not the only one.

Tandy made his first-team debut for St George Illawarra in 2003. It was to be start of a nomadic career. In Australia, he also played for South Sydney, West Tigers, Melbourne and Canterbury; in England for Hull KR, Widnes, Whitehaven, Barrow and Doncaster – none of them for very long. At all his clubs, many team-mates described him as the life and soul of the party and an inveterate practical joker. Some noticed, however, that his betting threatened to go out of control.

There were tangible achievements on the pitch as well. In 2007, he was a member of the Hull KR side that played in Super League for the first time and a forward whose experience was invaluable as the club established itself at that level. The following year, by now a West Tigers player, he was selected for the Ireland team that played in the World Cup in Australia, qualifying through an Irish grandparent. He played against Tonga and Samoa in the group stages and against Fiji in a semi-final qualifier, which Ireland lost 30-14 to be eliminated. A message of condolence from the Irish Rugby league after his death this week referred to him as "a larger than life character." A statement from Hull KR said that he had served that club with distinction.

His most unexpected success, however, was playing in the 2009 NRL Grand Final with the crack Melbourne Storm team which is still arguably the best club side Australia has produced in the last decade or more. Journeyman footballer he might have been, but that day he lined up with the likes of Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith in the team that beat the Parramatta Eels 23-16. It proved a hollow victory when it became one of the titles that was taken from the Storm retrospectively for their flagrant breaches of the game's salary cap.

He moved on to the Canterbury Bulldogs, where the last act of his career was to be played out. In the opening round of the NRL competition in 2011, something very strange happened. With great deliberation, Tandy got himself penalised right in front of the Canterbury goalposts at the start of the game. It emerged at his hearing that he had placed a large bet on the first points of the game being a penalty goal to their opponents, the North Queensland Cowboys.

Typically, the Cowboys ruined all the calculations by running the ball instead, but the intent was there and a League hearing suspended him from playing sine die. Despite that, he played in France for the Pia Donkeys in 2012. It was back in Australia that his troubled life ended, although friends said that he had been in good spirits and was looking forward to the publication of a "tell all" autobiography.

He was living at his parents' house on the Central Coast of New South Wales as a condition of his bail on a charge of kidnapping. Tandy was alleged to have been the "hired muscle" in a plan to collect a drug debt from the victim. He was described locally as a well-known drug-user himself. He is thought to have died of an overdose and NSW Police said that there were no suspicious circumstances.

Ryan Tandy, rugby league player: born Woollongong, New South Wales 20 September 1981; died Saratoga, New South Wales 28 April 2014.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?