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Former NRL CEO David Gallop was made a member of the Order of Australia in part for the leadership he showed on tackling violence and disrespect towards women in the game. The same day one of the league's star players was getting maggoted on a boat and ended the day by seriously harassing a woman who repeatedly asks him to leave her house.
Mitchell Pearce's career should be over: NRL advisor
Professor Catharine Lumby has worked with the NRL on gender issues for over a decade and says Mitchell Pearce must be stood down. Vision courtesy ABC News 24.
So does the predictable pre-season scandal tell us that Gallop failed in his mission to change the off-field culture of the NRL? Does it mean everyone who has worked for over a decade to roll out education programs failed alongside him?
As someone who has worked pro-bono advising the NRL on education in the area, I had to pause and really ask that question. When the story broke and I saw the graphic video of Mitchell Pearce I was overcome with a wave of anger and despair.
Part of my anger is that every time one of these scandals breaks the usual cynical pundits pronounce education on gender issues useless and start recommending their preferred brand of corporal punishment. "All these boys need is a good hiding," as one shock jock told me emphatically.
The reality is that education programs can be effective if they are real world and based on evidence. The NRL programs were developed out of scenarios we uncovered in research with more than 200 players; research we repeated five years later to keep the scenarios contemporary.
In the NRL programs players work through realistic hypothetical scenarios involving off-field behaviour with trained educators. They are encouraged to talk honestly about their experiences and values. It's the opposite of a tick the box moralising approach where an "expert" stands up and lectures men on why they are bad.
The NRL has the most comprehensive education strategy of any codes in Australia. Players receive education from the sub-elite level and each year they are given a refresher. Yet some players still turn out to be education proof.
So what to do about them? Personally I'm in favour of a zero-tolerance approach. I don't speak for the NRL. But I'd hate to see them lose the reputation for leadership in preventing violence against women and harassment. I don't think you deserve a career in an elite sport if you think harassing women is acceptable.
When allegations that footballers had gang raped a woman in Coffs Harbour emerged, David Gallop took a stand. He didn't truck in a PR firm to spin doctor the issue. He asked experts in the gender, sexual violence and education to come on board and give frank advice.
He reached out to people like Karen Willis, Australia's foremost activist and expert on domestic violence and sexual assault. He funded research into the culture of the game and male-bonding behaviour. He funded best-practice education.
The administration of the game has been through significant changes in the past few years. But I remain confident that the NRL is staying the course.
I'm often asked if there is something particularly toxic in the culture of NRL that makes harassment or assault of women inevitable. The short answer is no.
The longer answer is that all male-dominated cultures where male bonding is rife have their share of these problems. It's got nothing to do with whether men are working class or like playing body contact sport.
University colleges and merchant banks are notorious for sexist and demeaning treatment of women. And they're full of private school boys.
Australia has a history of problematic male bonding organised around binge drinking and using women as objects. And there'll be plenty of blokes online today defending that and telling girls to get a sense of humour.
But I suspect they are increasingly in the minority. Even in the past 10 years, community standards about the treatment of women and how "real" men behave have changed.
We are finally coming to terms with the extent of domestic violence and sexual assault. We are finally having national conversations about the impact of sexual harassment on women's careers.
The "get a sense of humour" response – which will be familiar to anyone who experiences racism on a daily basis – is out of step with where Australia is going as a country. We love our sport. But we want to respect the men and women who play it.
Catharine Lumby is a Professor of Media at Macquarie University and a member of the NRL's Education and Welfare Committee.