After Women in League Round, we need to talk about Matt Lodge. Again

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    Last week, the NRL celebrated Women in League Round.

    As a round, it is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the varied contributions that women make across the game and it also gives our players the chance to thank and honour special women who have helped and assisted them along their rugby league journey.

    For me, the round took on extra significance this year, particularly when thinking about how far we have progressed, especially when it comes to women playing the game. It’s worth reminding all of you that we are less than a month away from the beginning of the inaugural NRL women’s competition and another historic milestone in the history of our game.

    The only thing that wasn’t perfect about this round for me was the inundation my Twitter timeline had on Friday night when Matt Lodge scored an eight-point try in the Brisbane Broncos’ loss to the North Queensland Cowboys. Since then, I have been asked several times how I feel about Lodge being able to play rugby league.

    The truth is, it troubles me greatly and it is one of the hardest issues I find myself grappling with as a rugby league fan and, more importantly, as a feminist.

    You’ll all recall the exceptionally confronting footage of Lodge in New York in 2015, breaking into a home and violently assaulting several people. After several attempts to come back to the NRL, the Broncos announced his signing at the start of the year, despite him owing $1.6 million dollars in compensation to his victims.

    After much to-ing and fro-ing, the NRL intervened, ordered Lodge to enter into some sort of agreement with his victims and then it was announced that, in June this year, he reached a confidential settlement to compensate his victims.

    Matt Lodge

    (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

    At various points through the year, it has made me deeply uncomfortable to see Lodge playing, particularly at the beginning of the year when I knew he was not paying compensation.

    I struggled to understand how the Broncos rationalised this signature and, despite only being on a minimum wage, why Lodge had not been required to enter into an agreement with his victims before signing that dotted line with Brisbane at the start of the year.

    But now that Lodge has entered into such an arrangement and his victims are being compensated, should he be able to play footy?

    That all depends on what you think the NRL’s role is in punishing or rehabilitating players that have done the wrong thing.

    When I was younger, I used to think it was black and white. It was simply a case of, if a player committed a serious offence the NRL should wipe its hands clean of them.

    Part of being a player in the NRL is being a role model and if a player did not take that role seriously, it was easier to cut them loose.

    However, my thinking has since changed.

    I have come from a very privileged background. I am well educated. I wanted for nothing growing up. I have a loving and stable family and I was given many opportunities which have put me in an exceptionally fortunate position today.

    Some of our players are not so privileged. Some of our players have come from very challenging backgrounds and some have seen things growing up that no child should. This does not excuse poor behaviour, but it helps put things in perspective.

    For many of these men, rugby league is an opportunity for them to change their lives. And I have seen many players convicted of offences, who have done their time according to the law, come back and make positive changes in their clubs and at their communities.

    Marina Go, chairwomen of the Wests Tigers, often puts Russell Packer in this category. After being very wary about his signing, Go and her board trusted their coach Ivan Cleary. Since returning to the Tigers, Packer has, by all accounts, taken the opportunity with both hands, is focused on his family and with the support of the club is also undertaking an MBA.

    Russell Packer tackled Matt Moylan

    (AAP Image/Daniel Munoz)

    I’m proud that rugby league has given this man a second chance and that he has taken it.

    Should Lodge also be given this chance, particularly if he is genuinely remorseful and wants another opportunity to turn his life around? If not, what offences are serious enough to ban a player for life and who makes that decision on where that line is?

    As footy fans, sometimes we forget what is important and how much we sacrifice in the name of being successful on the field. At the start of the year, Lodge was booed every time he touched the football. As the season has progressed, the crowd seems to have lost its fight.

    Additionally, I heard people saying that, despite it being a ‘politically incorrect’ thing to say, Lodge should be in the running for signing of the year.

    When incidents like Lodge’s happen, it is hard to defend the actions of the minority in the face of overwhelmingly positive behaviour of the majority.

    The easy option would be to walk away. To be disgusted and to stop watching my sport.

    But what does that achieve? Very little.

    I want to be part of a force that helps to change our game for the better and to encourage and challenge the NRL to think about how it responds to incidents like these. They should be more up front in communicating to fans about the standards of acceptable behaviour for our players.

    Walking away does not achieve anything. But continuing to support the game and challenging it to be better hopefully achieves a little bit more.

    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 (117)

    • Roar Guru

      August 13th 2018 @ 7:15am
      Wolly said | August 13th 2018 @ 7:15am | ! Report

      It’s up to the NRL to draw a line but I don’t think they will. What Robert Lui did was just as bad if not worse yet hardly anyone batted an eyelid when he was playing again and correct me if I’m wrong but his time away from the game was shorter and his victim received no compensation.

      Personally I don’t think either of them should have been given second chances. Now I’m no angel and have definitely made mistakes in life but I have never assaulted anyone. Again though it’s up to the NRL to say enough is enough.

    • August 13th 2018 @ 7:23am
      bazza200 said | August 13th 2018 @ 7:23am | ! Report

      The amount of money he owed is much higher due to it happening in USA.
      So not comparable to Australian cases.
      Yep he did the wrong thing and has paid a price how long before someone is allowed to earn again ?

      • Roar Guru

        August 13th 2018 @ 7:59am
        XI said | August 13th 2018 @ 7:59am | ! Report

        Depends on the job. There are many careers you can never return to after certain crimes.

      • August 13th 2018 @ 8:51am
        John said | August 13th 2018 @ 8:51am | ! Report

        Paid a price did he? What price did he pay?

        • Roar Guru

          August 13th 2018 @ 9:14am
          Nat said | August 13th 2018 @ 9:14am | ! Report

          The article spells out just a portion of what he has done. If you ever decide to actually read what he has/is doing you might be surprised. Conversely, just keep throwing stones from that glass house of yours..

        • August 13th 2018 @ 12:02pm
          Gray-Hand said | August 13th 2018 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

          Lost his job for two years.
          Spent time in Rikers prison.
          Legal costs with respect to the criminal matter that would probably have been well into the tens of thousands.
          Undisclosed settlement payout with respect to a $1.6 million judgment.
          Major damage to reputation that will probably have a significant impact on his future earning capacity.

    • Roar Rookie

      August 13th 2018 @ 7:49am
      Don said | August 13th 2018 @ 7:49am | ! Report

      Whatever a person’s point of view on the Matt Lodge issue is, Mary you have written on this topic a few times now and put your opinions across.
      Whilst you can correlate the subject with Women In League round and hence justify raising the subject again, I just see this as opportunistic and lazy click baiting.

      With all the positive things that could be written today like the Women’s League being on TV, great footy over the weekend, your mate the Hayne Plane having a cracker…

      No, let’s raise the Matt Lodge issue because, you know, Women In League and all that…

      What Lodge did was abhorrent, but if he concerns you so much why doesn’t even seeing Kirisome Auva’a in blue and yellow concern you?

      Is it the compensation to Lodge’s victims not being paid or attempts to pay made sooner which really sticks with you?
      Because he certainly served a far longer time away from the NRL than most offenders had to and surely this is the penalty we should be concerned about.

      And given your education in law would you have advised Matt Lodge to accept the full compensation judgment and start making payments based on what he and his legal reps considered excessive and not attempt to negotiate a lower settlement?

      And whilst negotiating a settlement would you as his legal counsel not argue that the issue should be treated separately to his potential employment in the NRL as it was a civil matter?

      I thought we’d moved past rehashing what Lodge did.
      If not, then at least run a list of all the other domestic violence offenders in the NRL who you are also conflicted about being involved in the game.

      • August 13th 2018 @ 3:05pm
        Larry1950 said | August 13th 2018 @ 3:05pm | ! Report

        Mary, can we expect a follow up article on Jarryd Hayne & his problems emanating from his time in the USA or are you giving him a free pass because:
        (a) the civil case is yet to hit the courts
        (b) he plays for the eels & you like him
        (c) he’s been badly misjudged for years, has now hit form & is from NSW
        (d) all of the above.

        If I recall, a range of ‘role models’ from the NRL past including but not limited to almost an entire Bulldogs team, both Johns brothers, Fittler, Thurston, Thaiday, Darius Boyd & a host of lesser lights have disgraced themselves as young guys and been forgiven. Lodge was young & did worse than most but why is he on the wrong side of the line you’ve drawn.

        • August 13th 2018 @ 3:55pm
          Beastie said | August 13th 2018 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

          Because Lodge is still playing the game. That is the point.
          What has Hayne been found guilty of doing? Has he plead guilty? Is there any video proof of what he did? No.
          But drag his name through the mud by all means.

    • August 13th 2018 @ 7:53am
      Brendon said | August 13th 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      I dont think its difficult at all to be honet, but let me present the case as this:

      I come from a disadvantaged family, department of housing, public schools, bullied, even been assaulted a few times (coming from Western Sydney btw, if that means anything to anyone, out near Mt Druitt way). But I paid my way through school and university and busted my butt to get where I am today. I am now a professional in a well known business. My job is to ensure that product that arrives in Australia is of a certain standard. We are literally talking about product that is saving lives here. And I am good at what I do. When I applied for employment, I have to consent to the company running background and police checks. I am of the very strong opinion that if my file said assault, I would not have been hired.

      I also know that my current contract states that if I act in a way that brings the company into disrepute, I will be terminated. I would assume assaulting someone would count for that as well (I know for a fact that publishing things on social media can result in this, so fairly confident assault would be right up there).

      In both of the above cases, my salary of around 100K will be lost, because I did the wrong thing, and I would, in reality, be relegated to a much lower paying career, outside of my field, and likely in a non-professional setting.

      So why is it different for Matt Lodge, because he can run a football and get tackled? I am good at ensuring the people of Australia receive life saving products, and yet my life would be destroyed if I did the wrong thing, but Matt Lodge gets to go on after paying compensation?

      Its always been black and white in my eyes. Some of us are given a gift in our lives. Intelligence, athleticism, charisma, whatever it may be. If we jeopardise that, we should be punished, and that means we should no longer be allowed to participate at the highest level. Matt Lodge, Russell Packer, Robert Lui, none of them should be allowed to play, simple as that.

      • Roar Rookie

        August 13th 2018 @ 8:18am
        Don said | August 13th 2018 @ 8:18am | ! Report

        Brendon, if you were to lose your job because of an assault charge and lost your job would you also not be able to ever seek employment with another business in a similar industry?

        Would you not expect that after some time spent in a much lower paying job and working to improve yourself and showing future employers that you are worth giving another opportunity to albeit at a lower wage than previously, should enable you to another chance?

        And yes, they should be better.
        They are on big bucks.
        And you’d think they could stay on the straight and narrow given the opportunity they have.

        But some are flawed and like anyone, we can’t just toss people on scrap heaps because of a perception that the players should have a higher level of punishment applied than our courts determine they should.

        Matt Lodge can do a lot more good for himself, his family, the NRL and the community by playing well, earning good money, paying taxes and teaching kids about the pitfalls of rapid acclaim and high income without respect for others can result in.

        • August 13th 2018 @ 9:02am
          Karma Miranda said | August 13th 2018 @ 9:02am | ! Report

          I was at the Broncos – Storm game earlier this year Don. Every time Lodge was involved, especially in defence, the 7 year old boy sittung next to me would yell out “Smash ‘im Lodge!” His Mother said nothing throughout all this. This is all Matthew Lodge is teaching Kids, and the complete irony was not lost on me.

          • Roar Guru

            August 13th 2018 @ 9:04am
            The Barry said | August 13th 2018 @ 9:04am | ! Report

            Bwahahaha…

            That’s the best “won’t somebody think of the children” I’ve ever seen!!!

          • Roar Guru

            August 13th 2018 @ 9:29am
            Nat said | August 13th 2018 @ 9:29am | ! Report

            I remember a time when a person who goes by the name ‘Karma’ was spouting lies and misinformation about other people and the irony was not lost on me either.

          • Roar Rookie

            August 13th 2018 @ 11:05am
            Don said | August 13th 2018 @ 11:05am | ! Report

            I think the kid yelling Smash him Lodge and his mum not reigning him in a bit is a parenting concern and nothing to do with Matt Lodge.
            I’d suggest the same kid would yell Smash him Sammy if Lodge wasn’t there.

            And whilst Lodge is doing a fair bit in the community with young players, it’s the parents that should teach kids what is appropriate to say and not say and how to act in public.

      • August 13th 2018 @ 9:25am
        Wayne Turner said | August 13th 2018 @ 9:25am | ! Report

        I agree. The NRL has no standards.

      • Roar Rookie

        August 13th 2018 @ 11:54am
        Bunney said | August 13th 2018 @ 11:54am | ! Report

        I congratulate you Brendon on overcoming your challenging start in life. For some, that challenge is impossible to overcome blemish free.
        I looked after a foster kid who was very athletically skilled, but his upbringing meant he never had a chance. There was too much trauma in his first 8 years that drove him to do destructive feats, and he didn’t even understand why.

        I was uncomfortable about Lodge when he’d paid nothing and was silent. IMO, an agreement to pay up should have been part of NRL conditions.
        But he’s paid, and is paying for his crime. All reports out of Brisbane are that he’s a changed man, and doing good things. Some of the very best role models are those that stuff up, and come back from it

      • August 13th 2018 @ 12:52pm
        elvis said | August 13th 2018 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

        Grow up. He got drunk and got into a fight and yelled at some people. He has also done the time involved for his sins.

        • Roar Rookie

          August 13th 2018 @ 1:44pm
          At work said | August 13th 2018 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

          Elvis what a stupid and ignorant comment.

          I wonder if your reaction would be different if it was your wife and child that were terrorised in your own home.
          Or if your sister was the recipient of common assault which is what Lodge pleaded guilty to.

        • August 14th 2018 @ 2:22pm
          poles said | August 14th 2018 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

          Ah, the good old ‘it’s normal! everyone does it’ argument

    • August 13th 2018 @ 8:21am
      Crosscoder said | August 13th 2018 @ 8:21am | ! Report

      All I will offer on the Matt Lodge issue, in hindsight he should not have been invited back.The Broncos were naively oblivious to the PR damage it would create for them and the code.That’s my last opinion on Lodge.

      Conversely, I wonder why journalists with two DUI convictions can retain their position working for a newspaper’s though nothing to see here.A media outlet, that preaches to one and alli as being the arbiter of all that is good.
      The very act threatens the lives of innocents .Two chances not one.
      Double standards in my book.

      • August 13th 2018 @ 12:49pm
        elvis said | August 13th 2018 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

        The PR damage is limited to small noisy moral minority whom the internet has allowed to make a impact out of all proportion to their importance. The rest of us are happy for someone to do their time and return to society.
        You can’t run anything let alone a society on the basis that someone is going to be an outraged whinger on twitter.

    • August 13th 2018 @ 8:24am
      Gray-Hand said | August 13th 2018 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      @Brendon.
      Matt Lodge did in fact lose his job as a result of his assault conviction. So no difference there.
      Most jobs do not require their employees to disclose criminal history, so an assault conviction, while it might be job ending, is usually not career ending.

      • Roar Rookie

        August 13th 2018 @ 10:16am
        Matthew Pearce said | August 13th 2018 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        Thank goodness some people still know the difference between a job and a career

        • August 14th 2018 @ 8:34am
          Big daddy said | August 14th 2018 @ 8:34am | ! Report

          A job is getting paid.
          A career is getting long service leave at centrelink.

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