Rugby League players behaving badly – will they never learn?

I
was about to base this column on what a good “unofficial start” there
had been to the 2005 rugby league season. But I thought I’d better scan
today’s newspapers first (just in case) and I am very pleased I did!

Today
the News Limited papers have revealed that four Newcastle Knights
players are alleged, and I stressed alleged, to have gone on an
alcohol- fuelled rampage through a dormitory at Charles Sturt
University in Bathurst.

What next? Referees picking up the
ugliest, fattest lady in the bar and then taking her back to their
dormitory for a “show”? Now we read that Knights players enterred a
girls’ dormitory, letting off fire extinguishers, damaging bicycles and
“knocking on doors”.

And when they knocked on the doors, at
least one of the young female residents was asked, “if she was single,
and if she had any other friends who were single”.

If the
reports are true (and the writer Dean Ritchie is a respected News Ltd
league writer), at least one player put his hands down a girls pants
and said: “Roll over, I know you want to”.

There is even a
story that, “security guards chased a guy (player) up the street in his
undies because he’d left his clothes in one of the rooms”.

I
have gone into the alleged tawdry details because I want to contrast
the allegations with the response from the Knights CEO, Ken Conway, who
said:

“We understand it is of a relatively minor nature……….”

Get a life Mr Conway!

Let’s
put aside the details of the allegations, is it a “minor matter” that
four players, in Bathurst on a promotional visit and to play a trial
match visit a girls’ dorm at a University at 5am on a Sunday morning?
Yes at 5 am!

And what has been the response of David “Slow” Gallop, the “widely acclaimed’ CEO of the NRL?

“At this stage we will wait for the Knights to respond to the allegations and keep us advised of developments.”

Pathetic!

Given
today’s headlines, and the tawdry nature of the allegations, the NRL
should step in, and take control of the investigation – and, if they
are confirmed take control of the disciplinary measures that must
follow.

And what should those measures be? If the worst
allegations are proven – assaulting young ladies in their dormitory –
then the player or players concerned MUST be run out of the game.

Remember,
just two weeks ago, a couple of referees were given “life bans” for
having consenting, if semi-public, sex with a lady who willingly
accompanied them back to their dorms at the Academy of Sport’s Narellan
Camp.

If the allegations against one or more Knights
players are accurate, then they must be run out of the game – not by
the Knights, but by the NRL, which must deregister them!

Players
surely have had more than adequate warning that such behaviour will not
be tolerated. There simply must be a “zero tolerance policy” in place
now……not later, not “next time”.

The duty of the NRL in
this matter is not just to its owners, its sponsors, or the great
majority of players whose reputation is sullied by the continued animal
like behaviour of the few, but it is to the tens of thousands of highly
impressionable young men and women, boys and girls, who turned up at
the Broncos open day yesterday, or in Parkes to meet the Roosters
players, or in the far west of Queensland, and rural NSW, to meet the
players on the NRL’s road show.

And its duty is to the
thousands of boys and young men who are signing up to play league with
NRL clubs, feeder clubs, and suburban and country clubs, at this very
moment.

Players have a duty to set the right example, the
NRL has a duty to get rid of those who set an appalling example, and
indulge in behaviour that shames the whole game.

And the
NRL has a duty to the Souths Rabbitos players who really gave their
best on Saturday night – in appalling weather conditions – and gave
real hope to their long suffering fans, or the players from most NRL
clubs who spent the weekend promoting the game in regional and rural
communities.

It matters not whether the reported incidents
in Bathurst are “minor” or “major”. What matters is whether or not a
small minority of players have yet again set an appalling example.

If they have, then the game, and the Knights, are better of without them.

And
the game requires strong leadership from the NRL, and not just the
clubs. The NRL MUST sent an independent investigator to Newcastle
today, vested with the full authority of the League, and get to the
truth of the matter. No cover ups, no playing down the truth.

The
Newcastle Knights do a lot of good in the Newcastle and Hunter Valley
communities. The good they do must not be undone by the boofhead,
irresponsible minority.

This latest incident – which will grab all the headlines today – demands a robust response from the NRL.

It’s
not just a matter for the Knights, it’s a matter for the game – and for
the well resourced body running the game, the National Rugby League
Board, and its very well paid CEO.

It’s time the NRL delivered for the sake of the game, and it’s very future!

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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