The joy a game of rugby league evokes is palpable.
This is in large part thanks to my dad. He started taking me to games when I was around seven years old.
Every home game, we’d sit near the woman with the large cow bell. She liked to ring it every time the Raiders scored a try.
I’m old enough to remember the Raiders’ last premiership. I try to hold onto this when people drop the I and replace the R with an F. It’s a common refrain when talking about rugby league outside of Canberra. And within, to be honest.
Of course, I am a feminist. But it seems feminism and rugby league are mutually exclusive.
Jack de Belin, charged with rape, has allowed his lawyers to argue that the NRL didn’t educate him about violence against women. For a grown man to consider this a viable defence is unconscionable.
Scott Bolton pleaded guilty to common assault involving a woman and was initially suspended for 10 weeks and fined five per cent of his 2019 salary.
Unfortunately, the NRL decided to halve a perfectly reasonable penalty if he agreed to address the captains and senior players of all other teams during May’s Magic Round.
The litany of charges continues: Dylan Walker, domestic violence; Jarryd Hayne, aggravated sexual assault; Zane Musgrove, indecent assault; Liam Coleman, indecent assault; Tyrone May, filmed and circulated indecent tapes of two women without their consent.
On the positive side, the NRL’s new no-fault stand-down policy means many of these men cannot play until the conclusion of their case.
One notable exception is Jack de Belin’s co-accused Callan Sinclair, who plays for the Shellharbour Sharks in the Group 7 competition on NSW’s South Coast.
Since the Country Rugby League doesn’t have a no-fault stand-down policy, Sinclair has played a handful of games this season.
Notwithstanding Callan Sinclair, the true test remains.
If convicted, will these players be allowed to return the game?
NRL gender advisor Catharine Lumby and ex-Raiders skipper Alan Tongue both say players should be banned for life.
Tongue goes even further, suggesting the NRL should consider reducing the salary cap as punishment for recent crimes.
I can’t speak for all women, but if these men are convicted and subsequently allowed to return to the NRL, I will walk away.
Like Gus says every week, I love my Sunday footy.
But not at any cost.