Rugby League has long prided itself on being a bastion of fair-play and gentlemanly conduct on the pitch. Disgust at footballers crowding the ref has never been far away as it would never happen in our “yes sir, no sir” game of rugby league.
Yet last season was host to a massive amount of bad behaviour, from drink driving to assault and drug dealing just why is it that these off field problems plague our game and can we look forward to a season with controversy out of the headlines?
Last season hadn’t even kicked off and down under Manly Sea Eagles Brett Stewart was charged with sexual assault after an “alcohol fuelled” season launch party, which turned out to be the start of a variety of bad behaviour off the field.
We also had the Matthew Johns sex scandal and one of the most shocking incidents of recent seasons came to court with Greg Bird being found guilty of glassing his girlfriend.
Both incidents from previous seasons but none the less casting a shadow over last seasons proceedings and detracting from what was happening on the pitch in both hemispheres.
In fact it has caused such a problem in Australia that clubs have tried to enforce drink bans and there have been calls for the NRL to rebrand and distance itself for the turmoil of recent seasons. But surely when it gets to a point where you have to ban players from drinking there is something inherently wrong? These are young men who are in the public eye and should know better. Players should be responsible enough to be ambassadors of the game everywhere and clubs should be helping the players to learn how to do this.
They are full time professionals, they are not training twice a week and playing on a Saturday and going our for a bit of fun after the game. They are now at a level where they are in the public eye and they represent the sport of Rugby League and the fans of the game.
Even as I sat down to write this article I was going to end with the comforting fact that this years pre season has been a quiet one, hopefully paving the way for a quiet season off the pitch. But no sooner had I put fingers to keyboard than six Huddersfield players are arrested following rape allegations.
At some point Rugby League needs to stand up and take a look at itself, is there an inherent problem with attitudes within the game that needs addressing or has a lads on tour drinking mentality simply gone too far? Either way a season without problems off the pitch would be desirable for the game in both hemispheres.