I distinctly remember being involved in a Raiders’ education session over a decade ago with the focus being on respectful behaviour towards women.
It involved a rape victim speaking to the players about the devastating impact it had on her life and the life of her family. The players were shocked by the forthright re-telling of the experience and later spoke about the effect the session had on them. Of particular impact was when the players were told to imagine if that rape victim was their partner, sister, or mother.
I raise this as an example of the work done behind the scenes at the Club to ensure players are well educated about the importance of respectful behaviour towards women. Former Raiders’ skipper, Alan Tongue, works tirelessly in this space, educating young players, in particular, with scenario-based training. One scenario has the players’ role-playing behaviour in a pub, highlighting appropriate behaviour towards women.
The education doesn’t stop once players are established first graders, although there is a renewed push for greater education of senior players. This is because they set the cultural standards at each club.
There are now two welfare officers assigned to each NRL club. Amongst other things, they look after the well-being of players and their families, as well as their career pathway and education.
It would appear as though professional football players receive more education on respectful behaviour towards women than any other group of young men in society. Rugby league also does so much work to help the less fortunate in our community.
Yet inevitably, it is player misbehaviour by a few that tarnishes the whole story.
I’ve discussed this with people involved in the NRL, including players. All have been caught by surprise by the amount of bad behaviour within the league, some of which involves violence towards women.
The NRL is already under pressure from sponsors to bring a halt to the almost weekly stories of poor behaviour. You wonder though if the reality of the situation is fully realised by each and every player.
Players will tell you the greatest impact is not being able to play. The next step, it would appear, is to ensure the inconsistencies across the league in response to specific behaviours are eliminated.
It’s obvious players charged by police need to be stood down until their cases are heard by the courts. The Rugby League Players Association disagrees, believing that players should be allowed to play until their cases are heard.
But if players take to the field with criminal charges hanging over their heads it has the potential to put the game on trial every time they take to the field.
So what impact will this off-season from hell have on you, the NRL supporter? Does the off-field drama impact on your passion for the game?
For the NRL the season can’t start quickly enough.