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NRL, we have a problem!

There was some tremendous football played last weekend.

On Friday night, the Cronulla Sharks came away 24-22 victors against the Brisbane Broncos. This win was astonishing for many reasons but mainly because with 26 minutes left to go, the Sharks trailed the Broncos 22-0. This was a team that had not scored a point since the middle of May. Come full time, the Sharks had scored 24 unanswered points and come away with their first win in six games.

As well as there being a number of other closely contested games over the weekend, the other two surprise victors were the Knights, who beat the Eels 16-10 on Sunday and the Dragons, who put in a mighty effort to defeat the Storm 24-12 on Monday night.

Has anyone really been talking about this? The answer is no, because all that has dominated the headlines this week is Todd Carney.

I’m disappointed, because once again, I have spent my week fielding questions about why I support a game overrun with men who don’t know how to treat women, men who put their fingers in places they shouldn’t, men who defecate in shoes and now men who urinate in their own mouths.

Enough is enough.

I spend a lot of time applauding 90% of players in the NRL who do the right thing. 90% of players are great role models, do positive work in the community and play an integral role in what is the jewel on the NRL’s crown – the NRL Rugby League One Community. These players need to be commended and when I think about or write about these players, I am proud to be so heavily involved in rugby league.

However, because of the remaining 10% the NRL has an image problem and it’s time we came down hard on it.

We need to stop and think why despite women being the biggest growing influence group in the NRL, more women attend AFL matches than NRL matches. We need to stop and think about why Rugby Union gets much better corporate sponsorship and is used for corporates to build relationships with their clients to a bigger extent than rugby league. Most of all, we need to think about why, despite other codes having players that disgrace themselves off the field, NRL is still seen as the code for ‘boofheads’.

A big part of the problem is some very prominent people in the game and a lot of fans. There seem to be a group of people who very much ascribe to the ‘boys will be boys’ theory and have a really good laugh when incidents like this happen. People in this group think that we need to bring back the biff, that getting drunk and defecating in your own shoe is really funny and that incidents like Carney’s are no big deal. These people are a hindrance to the game going forward.

It’s also very easy to blame social media for this and to a certain extent I agree. With friends like Todd Carney’s who needs enemies? But whilst NRL players are human too and have every right to go out with their friends and have a good time, when did having a good time become synonymous with defecating in a shoe, pretending to simulate sex with an animal, dry fishing off a parked boat or pretending to urinate into your own mouth?

It never did. These are examples of pure stupidity and not what people should think about when they think of the NRL.

There are thousands of kids who put on footy boots each year and thousands of people who put thousands of hours into volunteering for the game they love – they deserve so much better than to see their game put through the mud by the men that should be the shining light for the league.

With #ToddCarney trending on Twitter, NRL will once again reach the world stage, for all the wrong reasons.

It’s not a joke anymore and we shouldn’t be laughing at boys will be boys.

With Todd Carney a very strong message has been sent. This message needs to continue to be sent until men like Andrew Johns realise that sort of behaviour is not acceptable. It needs to continue to be sent until it is no longer the norm to see a player’s name in the headlines for domestic assault every few months and it needs to be continue to be sent until people in society associate Rugby League with men like Alex McKinnon, Hazem el Masri, the Morris twins and Ben Smith.

The Clubs need to work together – not to outsmart each other and to undermine each other. Every time a player is disciplined for bad behaviour, sacked by one club and picked up by another, it completely undermines and does not benefit the club that has taken the strong stance. It does not encourage clubs to take strong action and it does not teach these men that not good enough, is not good enough anymore.

It’s time for the NRL to step up, for the Clubs to step up and for all of us to work together to make sure that rugby league does not continue to be tarnished by the poor behaviour of some.

We have a brilliant game which should be celebrated week in and week out – but only for the right reasons.

Love,

Ladies who League

For more stories check out Ladies Who League

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