NRL domestic violence case differs between Lui and Inglis
In the past week we’ve heard a chorus of outrage from a number of media personalities, who are concerned the NRL has not taken strong enough action in the Robert Lui case.
Lui pleaded guilty in a Sydney Court last week to assaulting his pregnant partner during last year’s finals series while drunk.
The personalities, including Mark Geyer, Dan Ginnane, Paul Murray, Mia Freedman and Claire Harvey, have called for the NRL to de-register Lui for good; a measure necessary, they say, in order to take a stand against domestic violence, and maintain the NRL’s image with women.
Geyer, apparently with a straight face, referred to the opportunity for the NRL to stamp out domestic violence if not from society, then at least from the game.
Lui was sentenced to a fine and a good behaviour bond. He has been stood down indefinitely by the Cowboys, and is currently taking part in counselling. His partner continues to live with him and their child in Townsville.
The Cowboys stated that they will continue to monitor the situation and will provide support for his rehabilitation. The ARL Commission say he will not be allowed back into the game until they are satisfied of his rehabilitation.
The aforementioned chorus do not approve of that course of action. They want the Cowboys to provide no more support to Lui, and don’t want him to ever play again.
On account of his crime, they want to take away the brief opportunity for a young Aboriginal man from North Queensland to make the good money available to top grade players. It goes without saying that they also want to take away this income from his wife and child.
After he’s cut adrift from the Cowboys and the NRL for good, and sent back to whatever prospects he had before making it into the top grade, the chorus are then silent on their hopes for the success of his rehabilitation or for the positive growth of his relationship and family.
None appear to have made any enquiries into what kind of environments either Lui or his partner (also Aboriginal) grew up in, and what impact these have had on them.
In a rant that would have made Stan Zemanek proud, Ginnane declared his complete indifference to the consequences of Lui being banned for life, and dismissed the idea of rehabilitation altogether, saying that it was simply not possible for any domestic violence offender to rehabilitate. Word is Dan has already got the nod for the next spot that comes up at 2UE.
Murray said that Lui’s partner “bizarrely” decided to stay with him. Freedman said her decision was “tragic”, and that she hoped his partner was getting some help, but expressed no concern that Lui get help or that they make progress as a family.
Another recent case was that of Greg Inglis, who was charged with assaulting his partner in early 2010, and initially suspended by the Storm for two matches. A lawyer duly appeared at Court and declared the charges would be defended, that Inglis had been acting in defence of his partner who was attempting self harm, and that his partner had retracted her statement.
This declaration was enough for the Storm to put Inglis back on the field, and his 2010 season was then uninterrupted. On the date of his hearing, however, Inglis did not advance any argument that he was trying to prevent his partner from harming herself, and instead pleaded guilty to a less serious offence of assault as part of a plea bargain.
The Age reported:
‘…Inglis accepted the information provided in Ms Robinson’s initial statement to police that he had pushed her onto the bed with an open hand after she had ‘got into [Inglis's] face.’”
The magistrate recognised this incident was clearly at the less serious end of the spectrum, and declined to record a conviction, but did order he order that he attend a men’s behaviour change program and donate $3000 to a women’s health organisation.
Whether it was because the matter was heard in Melbourne, away from the glare of the Sydney media, the case disappeared without a trace. There were no calls, as far as I am aware, for the NRL to make an example out of Inglis, suspend him for any further matches or deregister him for the year or for life.
Perhaps those who might have made that call judged him too important to the game, and the professional interests that surround it. Perhaps the charge he plead guilty to was not considered serious enough domestic violence.
Inglis and his partner married later that year, and the following year he re-settled in Sydney. There have been no reports of what Inglis got out of the counselling program, but every indication since then suggests it could well have been successful.
One journalist, Jessica Halloran, in the Sunday Telegraph, wrote a very positive piece about Inglis and his partner in April 2011, referring to the redemption he had achieved, post-assault, with the loving support of his partner.
Reflecting on these two cases, I wonder what kind of cause the above-mentioned chorus think they are advancing with their calls for such extreme penalties to be imposed on Robert Lui?
Do they seriously think that such an outcome would affect the amount of domestic violence in the NRL or society?
Do they seriously think the women who support the NRL and consider having or do have their kids play the game want Lui to be expelled for life, with all its consequences?
If this concerned chorus were really serious about the problem of domestic violence, I suggest they would want men like Lui and Inglis to stop doing what they have done, to have them punished appropriately, but would also want to give them support and assistance to face up to themselves, and make themselves into better partners and fathers.
Why do they not think that in addition to court-imposed sentences, a period of club suspension combined with specific treatment and counselling for domestic violence offenders, the successful completion of which would determine their ability to play, would be an effective way of achieving these ends?
If Paul Murray stepped outside, he’d find out it’s not so “bizarre” for women to stay with partners who have hit them. It’s really very common, especially where they have children, and especially where the man is supporting them financially.
Unfortunately, domestic violence programs for men are in short supply, and politically without great support. These programs can be very effective in addressing the issues that lead men to be violent in the home, including being victims of violence themselves as children, poor anger management, and drug and alcohol abuse.
For an ordinary person not earning a footy player’s salary and able to access private counselling, the prospects of getting this kind of help are not great.
Which is more than a shame, because the reality for a great many victims of domestic violence is not that they want their partner to leave, or go to jail, or be rubbed out of his line of work for life – they just want it to stop.
A lot of these women, and their friends and families, are also members of the rugby league family.
The efforts of the concerned chorus would be far better spent learning more about domestic violence and advocating for more offender and family violence programs, as well as for the participation of NRL offenders in them, instead of the knee-jerk posturing we have seen this week.
They could also encourage reformed NRL offenders to use their high profile to talk publicly about their experience and become advocates for respect for women, especially in the indigenous community.
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