A Bruise on Rugby League

I have been watching Rugby League for as long as I can remember. At one point in time it was the sport I favoured, it was the sport I would clear my weekends to watch and it was the sport that I respected. Those days are gone and they have been for a few years now.

In light of all the recent drama with Ben Te’o, Blake Ferguson and the NRL’s decision to further sanitise the game by sin binning a player if a punch is thrown, I took to twitter as I usually do and voiced my opinion.

“#NRL – Can’t shoulder charge. Can’t punch on. Lets a man [Robert Lui] hit his girlfriend back in the game, during Women in League no less. What a joke”.

There was nothing in my tweet that wasn’t factual hence why I didn’t expect there to be any challenge to it. Apparently I have too much faith in humanity, because one follower proceeded to defend Lui and then accused me of being an NRL troll for my comments.

“Lui got a year for that. Should he lose his livelihood? Bad look with his return but you don’t strike me as an NRL fan #NRLTroll”

Here’s the thing, I have no problems with his comments towards me because frankly I could care less what he, or anyone else thinks my opinion. However, what I do have a huge problem with is the fact he truly believes Lui has done his time on the sidelines and should be allowed back in the NRL.

Let me get this straight; a man who admits assaulting his pregnant girlfriend not just once but twice (that we are aware of) should be given the opportunity and privilege to play professional Rugby League again? You’ve got to be kidding me!

Firstly, let me say that any man who hits a woman is coward. Domestic violence is an epidemic in this country and affects 1 in 5 women and whilst the NRL is not responsible for what goes on in the broader society they are however responsible for the players and the consequences that are imposed. The rehabilitation provided is not enough. The NRL has the power to abolish it from the game, and doesn’t.

Whilst I appreciate the rehabilitation the game has provided, allowing Lui back for his first game during the Women in League round was fundamentally laughing in the face of his victim and all other victims of domestic violence victims. Consequently, this has made me question the integrity of the sport.

It isn’t the first instance the NRL have let an issue like this slip. Cronulla Sharks’ Isaac Gordon pleaded guilty to attacking his former partner early in 2012. She too was pregnant. As a result, the NRL gave him a 10 week suspension. Four months later, he is back on the field as if nothing had happened.

This isn’t just about Lui and Gordon – This is about the broader issue within Rugby League.

You see, what some people don’t seem to understand is that when you sign on to become a professional athlete, you automatically acquire role model responsibilities. Whether they see themselves as one or not, that’s just the way it is. Kids who are none the wiser to life’s harsh realities will aspire to be the next Lui or Gordon and they will continue to wear the jersey with their name and number on the back.

The NRL owes it to not only the women in league but the next generation of fans to stand up and say this behaviour is not OK and if you screw up, you will be punished.

Not everyone in life deserves a second chance.

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