This
might not have been a great week for the NRL, but it’s been a much worse one
for the AFL.

In
today’s Australian,
Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse has revealed a hidden truth about professional
sport in Australia: double standards exist and clubs
are no longer ashamed to admit it. “The fact that Chris (Tarrant) and Ben
(Johnson) are senior players crucial to the on-field success of Collingwood has
influenced my decision,” he said.

Refreshing
honesty perhaps, but this may be remembered as the first public acknowledgement
that professional sportspeople live according to a different moral code than
ordinary Australians, and that gulf will only widen from here. An inevitable
cost of pro sport, or something to be railed against? You be the judge.

In the
past I have been highly critical of how the NRL and NRL clubs have approached
similar incidents, but in the last year or so the NRL has toughened its stance
considerably, and commendably. And clubs have started to get the message.

Earlier
this year, the Sharks’ Tevita Latu assaulted a young woman and within days he
had been axed by the Sharks and deregistered by the NRL. (Regrettably, UK
Super League registered him to play in the UK but that is all on hold while he
performs community service back in Australia).

This
week’s alleged incident involving the Broncos’ Brett Seymour has received
extraordinary headlines in Brisbane – and substantial coverage in Sydney. It led the Channel Ten news
bulletin, made the front (and back) page in the Courier Mail.

The
Broncos have been upfront about the Seymour issue, and an apparently false
claim against a much higher profile player, Karmichael Hunt. One suspects David
Gallop has been insisting there be no cover up.

If you
look at the number of incidents involving players in the AFL and NRL over a five year period, there won’t be much
difference in total numbers, but there are signs that the NRL’s tougher line
has had a positive impact this season.

Whether
the NRL could afford to let one of its coaches to get away with Mick
Malthouse’s very worrying double standards is another matter altogether.

Peter Fray

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