Best person for the job: Raelene Castle is the first female chief executive of the Bulldogs. Photo: Kate Geraghty
Our greatest hope for the appointment of Raelene Castle as Canterbury chief executive today should be that columns like this will soon seem hopelessly patronising and old fashioned.
Because this column is welcoming the Kiwi's appointment to the rugby league club based largely on the fact she is a woman. This column is pointing out that the Bulldogs have come a long way since the Coffs Harbour scandal of 2004, when sponsors didn't want a bar of the club, and women in particular were deserting them.
This column is recording the fact that Liz Dawson and Donna Burke were in charge of footy clubs 15 and 25 years ago respectively and that they were – believe it not – also women.
This column is the response to a climate that still exists in society, and in rugby league in particular, which should not.
The chief executive of the NRL, David Smith, issued a media release welcoming the netball administrator's appointment. He stressed that she was clearly the best person for the job, but then added: "It is also worth acknowledging the significance of a female chief executive and the message of opportunity that the appointment sends to women in our game.
"I've said before – there is a place for more women in decision-making roles in rugby league and we need to be even more inclusive in the years ahead . . ." Hopefully so inclusive that Smith will have to give up issuing a press release every time a woman is appointed to a position of influence.
We welcome you, Raelene. We are happy about your appointment. We hope your presence improves our culture.
But at the risk of being a wet blanket, the fact it is a big story we have a female footy chief executive even when we have had a female prime minister for three years is probably not a great comment on where rugby league is starting from.
Even during the recent women in league round, many well-intentioned media men and officials made comments about the appearance of those they were interviewing to recognise the role of females in the game.
"You're an attractive young lady, why would you play rugby league?" is not intended to be an insult or to be condescending but such comments are inappropriate given what that women in league round is trying to achieve.
The idea that all comments about skin colour, positive or negative, are now firmly off limits is only just seeping through to many in rugby league. Similarly, comments directed at women about appearance – even compliments – are most often inappropriate in the workplace because they objectify and even subjugate.
But rugby league has always been a male workplace and those who have worked in clubs all their lives have never had to deal with these issues. You can't use racial epithets and you can't tell your boss she's a good sort. The reason is that these comments perpetuate historic power imbalances – between white males and everyone else.
Having more Raelene Castles will bring the culture in rugby league clubs more in line with the rest of society in the second decade of the 21st century. That's why her job at the Bulldogs is good news.
Can you imagine a time in the distant future where we don't need to encourage, recruit and welcome women, non-Anglo Saxons and gays to parts of our society in which they are not currently involved in any great numbers?
Consider what they will think as they scroll through this piece of archived commentary – no doubt through a wireless brain implant. They'll regard the things I am commenting on as completely alien and me as a primitive bigot.
At least, I hope they do.
I’ve written about this elsewhere, but there’s some not-so-cool stuff happening in South Africa at the moment.
The South African government refuses to recognise rugby league as a separate sport from rugby union. Recently some regional sports bodies did affiliate with the SARL.
The South African Olympic Committee has responded by writing to all regional sports councils warning them not to recognise rugby league under any circumstances.
This is despite a bylaw which states any sport recognised by the Commonwealth Games Committee – as league is – is entitled to domestic recognition.
It’s the sort of discrimination that league has always faced when it tried to start (or restart – South Africa toured Australia in the ‘60s) in new territory.
If we had a real RLIF with an office and fulltime employees, they would be lobbying the IOC. But we don’t.
Discord will keep you up to date in events over the next few weeks.
Let’s go to the comments ...
And as I’ve been doing, I’ll go back over what you’ve said at the bottom of every story I’ve done for Fairfax over the past week, along with anything said on the versions of the yarns I’ve posted on stevemascord.com.
Lots of responses to last week’s Discord, which concerned itself with criticism of referees. Rusty offered the old chestnut: ‘‘Why have scrums?’’ It’s to create an attacking opportunity with six defenders out of play, that’s all.
There have been rules trialled in the All Stars game and in Super League to further encourage attacking play from scrums.
RTP said a game of football was not a democracy – but professional sports competitions operate within a democracy and are subject to its laws.
Jimbob said I shouldn’t be using terms like ‘‘WTF’’. I was going to say ‘‘WTF is wrong with WTF?’’ but some other readers got in first.
JimBob, I am free to use the entire canon of human communication here. If the subs don’t think it’s appropriate to have a whole column in Aramaic, they’ll translate it for me.
A number of people said that while a bit of a whinge doesn’t do much harm at the top level, it is imitated in juniors and makes it nearly impossible to recruit match officials. I take that point.
Phil, the idea of an offender in an incident of foul play staying off for as long as his victim has one flaw. If the best player on the field is the offender and the worst player on the field is the victim, wouldn’t you just sacrifice him for the rest of the game?
Ted said coaches should have to referee a few games rather than cop a fine for questioning a match official’s integrity! I’d like to see that!
Now let’s go to Monday’s Set Of Six, which was also well patronised.
The first few comments were about the footy at the weekend and don’t need any response from me but were great points.
Scott said I was out-of-touch with reality in calling for a ban on gambling advertising at games and gambling sponsorship of stadia. Yet the very next day, the government announced proposals to do just that. If rugby league cannot survive without income from gambling, with $1.025 billion in television rights income, it does not deserve to survive.
The TV companies have already spent the money – bad luck if they now can’t pay for it with revenue from gambling companies. As for my objectivity, that was an opinion. Have a look at this site and thousands of other newspaper websites around the world and you’ll see thousands of opinions.
I still have faith in my ability to cover a news story regarding footy and gambling without my opinions clouding my professional objectivity. Maybe you don’t have the same faith in me. But considering that I don’t write day-to-day news anymore and am very unlikely to be asked to write such a story, at this stage of my career it’s a sacrifice I deem worth making.
Yes, Baz, Souths being sponsored by a casino is not a good look at all considering their owner’s previous stand against poker machines.
Chieftan says journos are ‘‘TV aligned’’ but I have written in here many times about how cynical it is to have a game on delay just to insert ads in this day and age. But night football does rate and television does pay the bills.
My major concerns are the ways this unfairly impacts on some teams in preference to others. Melbourne have already played in every available timeslot.
In answer to CL’s question – yes, I was joking.
40 degree S says players should not be distracted by Origin selection when they play for their clubs. But Trent Robinson, Michael Maguire and Shane Flanagan all said at the weekend that there is a strong chance they are, and that the situation had to be rectified for that reason. Greg Bird said there was an expectation the players would be distracted and it made them try harder.
Luke Burt referenced doubts over whether players in that situation would ‘‘have a go’’.
Peter Peptide said fast food and beer was just as harmful as gambling. You’re right. I have no comeback to that.
Maddou pointed out ‘‘Jarryd Hayne’s mullet’’. Ha! Check out the picture that accompanied Set of Six!