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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas