Our #TalkUpTheGame hashtag has been hijacked

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert


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    I’ve loved rugby league since I was eight years old.

    In the early years footy was about time spent with my dad, curled up on his lap cheering on my new team the Parramatta Eels and players like Dean Pay, Justin Smith, Stu Kelly and my favourite, Clinton Schifcofske.

    Plenty has changed from those early years. Some things have not – Parramatta still don’t have a Premiership – but I still love my footy and have learnt over the years that just like any sport, rugby league has its feuds, its politics and of course at times can be driven by agendas.

    Over the years the politics and the agendas have frustrated me immensely, particularly because at its core I truly believe we have a wonderful sport which, for the most part is played by men and women who genuinely want to make a difference in the communities which they represent so passionately.

    When Todd Greenberg came out earlier this year and encouraged all of us to ‘Talk Up the Game’, I thought ‘Hallelujah’.

    NRL CEO Todd Greenberg

    (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    For many years I have thought that rugby league has a perception problem and that a big reason for that is because we don’t do a good enough job at celebrating the good stuff that our game does.

    And don’t listen to the crisis merchants because our game does to a lot of wonderful things. Our players often go above and beyond when it comes to doing work to serve their community.

    I’ve heard stories about Josh Reynolds spending weekends at children’s birthday parties just because they have asked.

    Players from the South Sydney Rabbitohs are in peer support groups and encouraged to do an activity together once a week – often these activities are community focused.

    When Trent Hodkinson took Hannah Rye to her formal, you would be mistaken in thinking that this was an isolated incident.

    Our game is inclusive and has made it clear that there is a place in the rugby league family for you no matter your age, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

    And then there is the work the game does as a whole in the community space.

    It intrigues me, because rightly or wrongly, there is a perception in our wider community that rugby league has a problem with domestic violence and that our players do not understand the importance of respectful relationships or indeed, how to have them.

    Do some further digging and you’ll discover that the NRL has developed relationships with organisations like Our Watch and the Full Stop Foundation.

    Our NRL Community team and ambassadors from across the game including men like Alan Tongue travel across Australia and into the Pacific delivering the ‘Voice Against Violence’ program and, in speaking to representatives from the Full Stop Foundation, you’ll hear that they actually believe that the NRL is a leader in education in this space.

    So why isn’t that story out there?

    Because potentially rugby league is a bit modest and isn’t so good at talking itself up or the rugby league media does not have the same relationship with the game as say the AFL media has with the AFL.

    With his hashtag, Todd has given us an invitation and asked us to step up and talk up the game.

    But ridiculously, this hashtag has been hijacked by some journalists who can best be described as old and bloody grumpy.

    Articles have been written which has suggested that Todd is encouraging all of us to blindly praise the game. Or to overlook weaknesses, problems or inconsistencies. Each one of those journalists has fundamentally missed the point of the hashtag.

    There are times when it’s exceptionally important to write constructive articles. To question why something has been done or to ask if we can consider doing something differently.

    I wrote an article after the teams in the NRL women’s competition was announced questioning the exclusion of the Cronulla Sharks and South Sydney Rabbitohs.

    Jessica Halloran has been consistent and unwavering in her commitment to calling the NRL to account in relation to Matt Lodge and how this was handled.

    Andrew Webster is another writer I admire immensely who treads a wonderful line between supporting the game and wanting to make it better.

    Todd’s hashtag is not about these journalists. We need them and we need them to make the game better.

    Instead, Todd’s hashtag was targeted at us, the fans. Fantastic stuff happens in footy every day and there should be a place for us to share it and celebrate it. This is our game and we are its greatest custodians. This is a responsibility we should take very seriously.

    In my view, there’s another group that this hashtag was targeted towards and that is a group of journalists who do nothing but talk the game down. It’s clear that they have an agenda and it could be as simple as increasing clicks and circulation.

    These journalists are using their ‘respected’ and widely read platform to be unnecessarily critical of a game that has given them a living for a decade. And to me, it’s just sad.

    But the joke is on them because the men and women that they depend on to read and share their work are losing interest (and quickly).

    A good example has come in relation to referees. Despite some people in the media complaining relentlessly about the crackdown on penalties, polls taken show that overwhelmingly the fans are supportive and behind it. In my view, we are already seeing the benefits of this crackdown.

    The more that these journalists complain the more outdated, unprofessional and childish they look. And the game will move on from them and their outdated views.

    #NRLTalkUpTheGame is not about stopping the conversation and it isn’t about pretending we have a perfect sport. Because we don’t.

    But we never will. So let’s work together to celebrate our sport while being brave enough to call it into account when it disappoints or lets us down.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (36)

    • April 29th 2018 @ 11:18am
      Onside said | April 29th 2018 @ 11:18am | ! Report

      As you know Mary, bad news sells, be it fabrication or fact.

      Your article could have been about ANY sport on the planet.

      ALL of them have players who do both good and bad things.

      Players earning $1m a year visit schools or hospital. Yawn.

      Players caught doing drugs , fighting, drunk. Its headlines.

      The product determines peoples interest; do they like it ?.

      If a sport/code has little appeal , then no amount of either
      charity work, or a player being busted for drugs or drunk
      driving ,abusing women, will make any difference. None

      When people enjoy a game, everything else is packaging.


      • April 29th 2018 @ 1:10pm
        Tom English said | April 29th 2018 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

        Different sport I know, but someone commented recently that people come to see players like Folau, not because of RA’s diversity policy. Well said OS.

    • April 29th 2018 @ 11:48am
      Marco said | April 29th 2018 @ 11:48am | ! Report

      Mary, bad news sells papers so it’s up to the NRL and its employees to limit the bad news. You say the NRL is against domestic violence and assault of women. Then the NRL is in the headlines for re employing Lodge at the Broncos. The impression is now that the NRL condones violence towards women. And the media are all over the story.
      The NRL are mismanaging the game they control. If it was better managed there wouldn’t be so much bad press.

      • Columnist

        April 29th 2018 @ 7:47pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 29th 2018 @ 7:47pm | ! Report

        I agree with that Marco, particularly in relation to the handling of the Lodge incident.

      • April 30th 2018 @ 4:35pm
        Ben said | April 30th 2018 @ 4:35pm | ! Report

        So Matt Lodge should be banned from the NRL for the rest of his career because he intimidated a woman? Even though he has done his time, according to authorities in the USA.

        Oh, and don’t worry about what he did to the bloke and the child of course, screw them! 😕

        I’m a Broncos fan, and absolutely enjoy watching Matt Lodge run around in a Broncos jersey. Not only is he a good player, but he’s living proof that good people can sometimes make bad mistakes, then turn their lives around.

    • April 29th 2018 @ 11:58am
      jamesb said | April 29th 2018 @ 11:58am | ! Report

      I read that supposed journo’s tweet, and after year’s of built up frustration, i had enough. I gave him a label, then continued by saying that the game has given him food on his table. Not long after, he blocked me. Which is fine, because i don’t respect him as a journo anyway.

      I want constructive criticism from the media, just so that the game can improve in the long run. But unfortunately, those old grumpy men use platforms like Twitter to get their agenda across simply because the newspaper medium is dying. The old guard are losing relevance by the day.

    • April 29th 2018 @ 12:31pm
      Big Daddy said | April 29th 2018 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

      A lot of what you say is true.
      If Todd Greenburg is genuinely appealing to the public to speak out why doesn’t he have some sort of public forum with some handpicked fans from each club.
      Unfortunately the media are paid to write what they perceive will get the headlines.
      The public (fans) have plenty of good things to contribute to what’s happening in rugby league so it’s about time NRL administration got on the same page .

      • Columnist

        April 29th 2018 @ 7:48pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 29th 2018 @ 7:48pm | ! Report

        Big Daddy he does do that. 🙂 In fact there was one with the Bulldogs just this week.

    • April 29th 2018 @ 1:07pm
      Tom English said | April 29th 2018 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

      I don’t get it. What’s the agenda that these journos push? Is it to destroy RL?

      Surely not, you don’t choose a career in a sport you hate. If anything, they want it to be better, just look at any other sport. Article in the SMH about how Super Rugby should be taken apart and started again.
      Not everything Mike Tuckerman writes about soccer is positive- far from it. Have a listen to Eoin Morgan saying how he thinks cricket will DIE without another revolution.

      Don’t expect everything to be positive, journos are paid to be realists. If they don’t like something, they’ll say so. If they do, that’s cool as well.

      • April 29th 2018 @ 1:40pm
        i miss the force said | April 29th 2018 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

        come on, they are not realists. they are sensationalists

      • April 30th 2018 @ 8:51am
        chris said | April 30th 2018 @ 8:51am | ! Report

        Good point as I see the proper sports of the Eastern Seaboard like League, Union and Cricket might get taken over by the horrible nearly national sport of Aussie Rules and the international corrupt crap of Soccer.
        HASHTAG:Stay safe NRL,ARU and Aussie Cricket.

    • April 29th 2018 @ 2:52pm
      Albo said | April 29th 2018 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

      Sorry Mary, but its modern society that has hijacked our game and fed continual negativity towards the game. It is hypocritical to attack journalists for having some sort of agenda when the game is being attacked by all sorts of rent seekers and crusaders of virtue with their own agendas. The game of rugby league has always been celebrated as a popular entertainment form based on our love for sporting prowess and competition. In decades past when crowds flocked to the SCG match of the day and bulged suburban grounds with fans, there was only ever media coverage about the performances of teams and players out on the park last week. These days the game is now viewed through an immense filter of political correctness and off field societal trends of constant virtue signalling. So the game is no longer simply an athletic form of entertainment , but is constantly on trial as how it fits into todays societal politics. There were no questions of “inclusiveness” a decade ago. Anyone could play the game as long as you had the ability to play. Indigenous or Polynesian players were always embraced because of their footy ability not for the colour of their skin. Now we go searching for some odd boofhead making a racial slur so we can spread it across headlines ? Once we praised a footballer for their speed and toughness, now we go searching social media for this footballer making some “homophobic” comment or an image of him grabbing a female ” inappropriately” ? Modern society demands we be “outraged” by such things, so we will be continually fed such instances, not the image of a full backline movement. We can hashtag “positiveness” for our game as much as we like, but until we wake up as a society it will always be overshadowed by politics which is inherently negative and divisive.