Another week, another scandal involving an NRL player.
It is time that we just accept that as the norm rather than some aberration.
Every time some video or picture comes out of a player, I dunno, doing a Tik Tok dance when meant to be in quarantine; throwing haymakers at some punter in Kuta; having sex with someone in (a) a bedroom, (b) an alleyway or (c) a bathroom stall; going berserk outside a nightclub; or even urinating in their own mouths, we hear this line come out of someone’s mouth: “they are meant to be role models”.
What a load of rubbish.
They are young men who are very good at playing rugby league and as a result get a lot of money, free time and adulation as well as attention from amorously minded admirers.
Now, anyone who has experience around young men – especially those with above-average sporting abilities – will know that the above list of ingredients is the equivalent of things you mix together if you want to create an explosion.
So whoever thinks that their part in regard to the game of rugby league amounts to or should be equated with them also being role models are off the mark.
The fact that they are talented on the football field does in no way equate to them being perfectly behaved off it. Yet that equation is regularly made.
Most young men do stupid things. I certainly did. Any idea I had of standing for public office was scuttled by my best mate who swears he’ll sell all the videos of me the instant they are worth something. I’m not going to detail all of the dumb things I did; my point is that lots of young men do them, and for the most part absolutely no one cares because we’re not famous.
NRL players, however, are famous.
While a great swathe of them keep their noses clean or at least keep their disgraces private, there will always be some who get into public strife, whether that be drugs, drunk driving, fighting or being caught in sexual acts. The way things are currently done, that trend will continue.
However, it is possible to keep rugby league players out of trouble. All you have to do is put really stringent measures in place.
1. Heavily limit the amount of money they have access to
If a player has lots of money, they can buy things like lots of alcohol or drugs or gamble heavily. These activities can often end badly.
2. Heavily restrict the amount of free time players have
Unsupervised young men often get up to no good, especially when they are in packs. I know I certainly did. However, I’m neither interesting nor famous. People are, however, interested in what first-grade NRL players get up to. I suggest introducing curfews and constant supervision for all players if you really want to avoid scandal.
3. Actually sack players who transgress stated moral and behavioural codes
This will of course involve actually stating what the moral and behavioural codes are and sacking the players, no matter how good they are, who break them. If players realise that they’ll really be held to account when they disgrace themselves, perhaps they’ll actually pay attention to what is asked of them.
However, there are two huge measures that never get considered but really need to be in this whole equation.
4. Closely vet the people the players are associating with
This vetting process should examine whether the people are of the sort of character that will care nothing for the reputation or career of the individual or the fortunes of their club and do things like take incriminating or unsavoury photos or videos of the players and disseminate them to a wide audience.
The sort of people who, for example, think it is okay to take videos over the top of toilet door stalls and send them to people should be fairly easy to pick, as they are likely to be complete tools who laugh only at their own jokes, have no real friends and find great humour in the misfortune of others.
A basic character assessment should get rid of at least 80 per cent of these tools, drastically reducing the risk to players and their consenting partners.
5. Name and shame these people
While there is no question that some of the acts that are recorded are unsavoury, the people who record and disseminate them – especially those taken without consent – are just awful people. It is not their names and reputations that get tarred, yet they play a central role in really hurting others emotionally and reputationally and possibly ruining their careers too.
If they are prepared to take the photo or video and share it, they shouldn’t mind having their name and photo shared publicly as well along with what they did. If that started happening, perhaps lots of them would think twice before carrying out such heinous acts.
In the case of the Eels player and the poor young lady he was with – as well as the other incidents involving videos taken of players and their consenting partners without their consent over the last few years – they have been massively and horribly wronged.
Yet, possibly because they are rugby league players and people who associate sexually with rugby league players, they might be seen as fair game.
That’s not fair at all.
The NRL Integrity Unit’s focus should be establishing whether any registered player had any role in taking or disseminating this illegal video. If they find a player or players have been involved, those players should be deregistered and face police charges, as should any non-players involved.
Otherwise, all efforts should focus on looking after the victims in this event – the unnamed Eels player and the young lady he was with.
It is high time that the vermin who carry out these acts were named and shamed.
Give them the 15 minutes of fame they deserve.