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The NRL’s off-season from hell: Does it impact on your support for rugby league?

Tim Gavel 27 February 2019 7

What impact will this off-season from hell have on you, the NRL supporter?

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.


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7 Responses to The NRL’s off-season from hell: Does it impact on your support for rugby league?
Anohs Llihpmeh Anohs Llihpmeh 7:51 am 27 Feb 19

NRL lost my interest and I changed teams after the Sharks bad behaviour towards women and in public. Now can't be bothered watching NRL, the actual game is lost in the money and glitz.

David Pollard David Pollard 12:40 pm 27 Feb 19

The off field drama ranges from comical, to disappointing, to disgusting, to absolutely vile, and clearly the NRL - National Rugby League as an organisation has to take responsibility for getting it out of the game, but the issues are caused by individuals. I don't find it difficult to blame those individuals and still enjoy the game as a whole.

As a fan, I want to see consistency and fairness to players, teams, and fans. Sometimes as a Canberra Raiders fan it feels like we don't always get consistent treatment, but I'm sure every team feels like that at times.

Brent Sloane Brent Sloane 1:10 pm 27 Feb 19

I'm a massive fan of the game and the Canberra Raiders. I grew up playing it, watching it and supporting it - that kind of emotional connection never really goes away. But every time the news breaks of another player involved in some kind of controversy - particularly the ones involving violence against women - I get upset and angry about the culture that has been allowed to fester within this sport for too long. Yes, perhaps it is a reflection of society at large (which is another big issue we all need to address), but I'd be fully supportive of the NRL and its clubs standing down players accused of violent crimes until their cases are heard. Ultimately, the game needs to take a strong stand that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable.

    David Pollard David Pollard 1:32 pm 27 Feb 19

    As long as there are safeguards in place so the process isn't abused to sideline a star player the week before a grand final for example. If the police are pressing charges for a serious crime though, the theory is that they have crossed a threshold of evidence and believe they have a solid case, and that is probably enough.

    Trial by media isn't good enough to sideline a player though, and the internal NRL judiciary is too inconsistent to be relied on for something like that.

    Brent Sloane Brent Sloane 1:41 pm 27 Feb 19

    I don't think we'd be likely to see that kind of 'strategic' allegation... but you're quite right that the police wouldn't lay charges unless they felt like they had the evidence to make a conviction, so that would probably serve as an appropriate threshold.

Alanna Davis Alanna Davis 2:29 pm 27 Feb 19

I make a conscious decision not to applaud or acknowledge the players that misbehave. But I don’t let them destroy it for the others, there are lots of good players who do massive amounts for our community.

Saying that, is the training the players and staff receiving working? Is it hitting the right mark? Not all training is necessarily correct or quality.

Rollersk8r Rollersk8r 3:13 pm 27 Feb 19

Rugby league, more than any other sport, seems obsessed with redemption. It makes for a better Channel 9 story if players make mistakes on their way to achieving success in the game. This has backfired spectacularly in awarding the game’s highest honor to the likes of Todd Carney and Ben Barba. Yet the lessons are never learned. If you are a good enough you will always be wanted somewhere, whether it’s with another team or overseas.

Unlike other clubs, at least the Raiders seem to have set a decent example in parting ways with Carney, Dugan, Ferguson and Monaghan in fairly recent years.

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