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Opinion

Josh Reynolds highlights the 'complex' nature of sporting fandom

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Expert
7th February, 2020
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The first time I met Josh Reynolds was over five years ago when he was still playing for the Canterbury Bulldogs.

My place of employment was involved in a literacy program whereby the employees would write letters to students at a school based in Minto.

The program was designed to give the kids a positive role model and to encourage and promote literacy (both for the employees and the students!)

At the end of the year, my place of employment would host a party where the students would come in to meet their buddies and we would celebrate. There was always a guest speaker, usually a sporting personality, and one year it was Reynolds.

He was so impressive that day. He was kind to all the children and stayed as long as he had to, to make sure that every child got a selfie and an autograph. He was generous with his time and a real credit to his club.

I later thanked Raelene Castle, who was CEO at the time, for allowing us to spend some time with Reynolds. Raelene told me that the player she received the most compliments about away from footy was Reynolds and that he would regularly attend kids’ parties, did plenty of community work behind the scenes and was gracious with fans.

Since that event, I have had the opportunity to meet Reynolds on several other occasions and he has always been friendly and polite.

When I heard about the allegations of domestic violence levelled against Reynolds, I was shattered. It seemed completely incongruous with the image I had in my mind and the man that I had had some brief interactions with.

But of course, just because someone presents as a ‘nice guy’ in public, does not mean that the public knows what happens behind closed doors.

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As a feminist and as someone who understands the prevalence of domestic violence in this country, I also want to believe women that come forward and make allegations. Domestic violence is a complicated issue and it can take great courage to come forward and report.

Additionally, we have seen countless examples of women coming forward with serious allegations and then questions are posed like ‘what was she wearing?’, ‘had she had anything to drink?’, ‘why was she out so late?’ and ‘why did she go home with him?’

Victim blaming is real and I find it staggering that people use these factors to try and excuse what is absolutely despicable behaviour and behaviour that no one ‘asks’ for.

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Since those initial allegations were made, other footage has been released to the media of Reynolds speaking to his ex-partner is an angry tone and allegedly grabbing her wrist. I had several questions at the time – did Reynolds know he was being filmed, was there a potential trespass here, was the video selectively filmed?

None of these factors excuse the language used in this video or any alleged violence, but I wondered whether there was more to the story.

Neil Breen has done some additional investigation since then. Earlier this week on Nine News a story aired about Reynolds’ ex-partner alleging that she had multiple identities, had faked several pregnancies and lied about her own health and the health of her family to get money from former partners.

This piece on the news was extremely difficult to watch. We know that Reynolds and his ex-partner went public last year to announce the miscarriage of their twins. To see the anguish Reynolds was going through at that time was hard.

It seemed clear he really wanted to be a dad but also a supportive partner in a deeply distressing time. To have since learnt that these pregnancies may have been fake? I can’t imagine Reynolds’ mental state at the moment if the details in the investigation were true.

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It was announced by the NRL today that Reynolds will not be subject to the no-fault stand-down policy. Todd Greenberg labelled his matter “complex” and said that Josh had been upfront and open about his situation, proactively advising the Integrity Unit of what was happening before the police investigation began.

This situation is devastating.

Serious allegations have still been levelled at Reynolds and just because my interactions with him in the past have been positive, it does not mean that he did not behave as alleged.

However, if the allegations levelled against his former partner are true, this no doubt impacts the way we perceive other potential victims that come forward and make allegations. Are we less likely to believe people in the future because of cases like this?

There are absolutely no winners in this situation.

I hope everyone involved is receiving the support that they need.