At the start of what ought to be a showcase week for rugby league, this
morning’s headlines could hardly have been worse.
The Australian, which seldom gives rugby league the coverage the game
merits, has made the story its sports section lead – “Widders’ racial abuse
call
” – and the story dominated the post-match reports on radio yesterday
afternoon.

The allegation is that the Rabbitohs’ former international, and
current
captain, Brian Fletcher, called Parramatta’s aboriginal second rower,
Dean Widders,
a “black …….” in the second half of the Eels v Rabbitohs game at
Parramatta Stadium yesterday afternoon. And the timing couldn’t
possibly have been worse – it came on the day the Eels honoured past
aboriginal greats as part of NAIDOC Week celebrations!

Regrettably, the initial NRL response to the allegation – an
allegation clearly supported by other Eels players – was a dithering
one. The NRL operations manager, Graeme Annesley, initially said that a
formal complaint would need to be made in writing for a charge to be
laid. But, later, the NRL clearly realised it would need to take a
pro-active
approach – and it had better have its act together today if the image
of the
game is not to be even further damaged.

There is NO place for racial vilification in rugby league. The fact it
is alleged to have occurred at a game where the contribution of indigenous
players to rugby league and sport generally was being honoured and highlighted,
is appalling.

The full story in on the site here.

Peter Fray

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