NRL season starts under a cloud

League Express editor MARTYN SADLER anticipates the start of the new NRL season and criticises the NRL’s leading official.


This week in League Express we published a Mailbag letter from one of our regular correspondents, Bill Anderson of Parbold in Lancashire, which is highly critical of the NRL and in particular its chief executive Todd Greenberg.

It is a letter that I would have been happy to have written myself.

As anyone will know who has been following the fortunes of the NRL during the close season there have been a number of scandals widely reported in the Australian media about the activities of a small minority of NRL players away from the pitch.

It started at the end of last season, when the Bulldogs’ had their ‘Mad Monday’ celebration that went to excess, with two players reportedly dancing nude in a situation where they could be seen by some members of the public who were prepared to crane their necks sufficiently to see what was going on. The players clearly drank more than what was good for them.

Subsequently, however, as the off-season unfolded there were allegations of common assault, sexual assault, domestic violence, sexting and grimy details of sexual activity that should have been kept behind closed doors.

The main players concerned were Jarryd Hayne, who denies an alleged sexual assault; St George star Jack de Belin, who has pleaded not guilty to an alleged sexual assault; Dylan Napa, whose sexual exploits from several years ago were shared on a WhatsApp messaging group among Roosters players; the Penrith player Tyrone May, who claims he will “vigorously defend” two counts of recording intimate images without consent, and two counts of disseminating images without consent; Ben Barba, who was banned for life for an alleged assault of his partner at a Queensland casino, although she didn’t want to press charges; Dylan Walker, who was stood down after allegedly assaulting his fiancée; and Tautau Moga, who was charged with assaulting a taxi driver.

It all sounds serious, but the thing to note about most of those incidents is that no one has actually been convicted yet of any offence.

Whether they will be remains to be seen.

That hasn’t stopped the Sydney based media having a field day with its desire to stick the boot into Rugby League.

This extract from an Aussie TV programme last Sunday, in which Cronulla star Paul Gallen defends Rugby League against Peter Fitzsimons, one of Rugby League’s harshest critics, is a case in point.

The thing that I object to most of all is that the NRL, and Greenberg in particular, has joined in the condemnation, not just of those players, but seemingly of the game as a whole.

Rugby League does some wonderful things in the community in Australia, far more than any other sport, while it has a record of inclusivity to be proud of, having given opportunities to Indigenous players, for example, that other sports historically failed to do.

But you wouldn’t know that from witnessing Greenberg’s reaction to all these events.

It isn’t that he should try to cover anything up, which in the goldfish bowl of the Sydney media would be impossible.

But he should at the very least try to put across a balanced view of Rugby League players.

To see an established player like Robbie Farah saying he is ashamed to admit to being an NRL player, as he has apparently done, appals me.

The NRL administration thinks it’s doing the right thing by acquiescing in the image that is being created. But I would sack the lot of them.

We often say in Rugby League that the players have to rescue the game from the administrators.

Let’s hope that it happens again when Melbourne Storm start the new NRL season tomorrow morning against the Brisbane Broncos.

This is an updated version of Martyn Sadler’s ‘Talking Rugby League’ column from this week’s League Express.

Discuss this article here on the fans forum.

There will be full coverage of the start of the new NRL season in next Monday’s League Express.