In the football off-season, the number of “incidents” involving AFL players easily exceeded those involving NRL players — but the latter have certainly caught up in recent weeks.
And the seriousness of the charges faced by players in both codes put pressure on administrators to change the current “hands off” approach being adopted very conveniently.
The Penrith Panthers NRL club has been hit with the news today that half-back Craig Trindall has been charged with hitting a woman in the face with a children’s blackboard (she was taken to hospital with a broken nose, damaged eye socket and splinters of wood embedded in her face).
The club is standing by Trindall — at least for the time being. Just as it stood by captain Craig Gower when he was investigated for a nightclub assault, and Frank Pritchard when he was charged with affray after a street brawl.
A couple of weeks ago, a NRL player was charged with assaulting police after being pitchforked out of Rosehill racecourse on Golden Slipper Day, and a Gold Coast Titans player is before the courts on a serious sexual assault offence that allegedly occurred when he was with the Wests Tigers last year.
Not a good look for rugby league. The position in the AFL is no better. As Patrick Smith pointed out in today’s Oz, the West Coast Eagles’ Daniel Kerr was in and out of court so many times in one week the judges must have thought he was on some sort of judicial interchange bench.
He listed a couple of other incidents involving AFL players this season — incidents that demonstrate neither code can claim the high moral ground.
But the other common factor is the approach of the AFL and the NRL chief executives. It is almost as though they swap notes.
“The clubs are handling the matter, and while we are watching closely, the law must take its course,” is the standard line. In the meantime, the players continue to play for their team — and are paid in full. And given the slow court processes, see out the season.
If that policy applied in the general workforce there would be uproar. How many companies, or government departments, would allow an employee facing serious charges remain at work?
The image of both codes is being damaged by incident after incident of highly paid professional footballers behaving disgracefully. Surely the answer is for both codes to draw a line — and insist that when the charge is serious enough, the player be suspended until it is resolved.
If that happens it might have a better deterrent than the “penalty” the court may eventually impose!