COLUMN | Fans need to start showing players more respect

Last week I attended two games, the Super League match between St Helens and Huddersfield and Halifax’s clash with Toronto.

Both games were played in good spirits but there was something that didn’t sit right with me at either game – injured players being jeered.

Giants back-rower Alex Mellor went down with a head knock that was greeted by boos from the home crowd. It turned out he was forced to go to the hospital with a suspected broken jaw. Thankfully, the injury wasn’t as bad as first feared.

Then, in the game on Sunday, Toronto’s Liam Kay went down and instantly looked in trouble. A section of the Halifax crowd counted down from ten before deeming he was unfit to carry on. Kay was subsequently helped from the field and had to be carried around the pitch. His season has been deemed over as a result of the injury.

Before I go any further, it’s important for me to state this isn’t a jab at the two clubs involved. Far from it, because this is something that happens up and down the country week after week.

But surely fans feel a bit daft, maybe even a bit embarrassed, when players who they taunt for being injured then turn out to be seriously hurt?

Perhaps I’m going soft but it’s not a great look for the sport. We constantly talk up the toughness of our players and then show them absolutely no respect after they suffer an injury when they put their bodies on the line in order to entertain us.

Maybe it’s become more noticeable given the rise in gamesmanship we have seen in the last few years. There’s little doubting that there is more of that in the sport, several coaches have pointed it out themselves. Perhaps it makes it less believable that a player is actually injured. In that sense, the players guilty of this should take a moment to think about what they’re doing.

But it’s tasteless to say the least when players are being forced from the field and taunted for their troubles.

The world is becoming more politically correct by the day and it’s something I’m not particularly a fan of but the way society has changed isn’t always reflected in Rugby League or sport worldwide for that matter. Rugby League stands out, on gamedays at least, because of the weird and whacky chants that are belted out every week. On the whole, fans do a great job of making their home ground a fortress. They manage to create a hostile atmosphere that is enjoyable to soak in regardless of which side you’re supporting.

But having no respect for players isn’t necessary.

Or maybe I am just going soft.