Rugby League

NRL captains and coaches pledge to show respect

Captains and coaches in all NSWRL-sanctioned competitions will have to sign a respect pledge in a landmark initiative to combat referee abuse and offensive behaviour.

In a bid to provide a safe environment and mould behaviour in the rise to the NRL ranks, the NSWRL has introduce  protocols and procedures for participants from Harold Matthews through to NSW Cup level.

Pledge: Feras Karam, Lyndsay Packer, Faye Lehane and Nathan Loveday pose as part of the Respect campaign.
Pledge: Feras Karam, Lyndsay Packer, Faye Lehane and Nathan Loveday pose as part of the Respect campaign. Photo: Supplied

Boorish behaviour towards referees and fans has been an issue for all sports and the NSWRL is countering that by making respect a key focus this year. 

The  protocols for the season include: captains and coaches signing a respect pledge, players lining up in the middle of the field to shake hands before every match and captains and coaches wearing an armband with a C on it to identify them as leaders.

It's hoped the initiative and  education programs will help prevent the sort of ugly scenes Canterbury forwards James Graham and David Klemmer created when remonstrating with referees during  last year's Good Friday clash against South Sydney. 

The issue of referee abuse and spectator violence is so prevalent in the junior leagues that Penrith has been forced to employ security guards for local competitions.

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"Respect is one of the by-words we try to run our whole organisation by and that starts with the players in our junior teams," said NSWRL chief executive David Trodden.

"If we can start with our junior players treating everyone within the game – whether it's referees, administrators, each other or anybody else – with respect, we've created a great environment to play sport in."

As part of their pledge, coaches agree to "put the wellbeing of the players in my care first and refuse to use fear and intimidation to 'motivate' them". 

Players and captains vow to "always respect the decisions made by match officials" and to "display control, and to respect opponents, coaches, officials and spectators".

"We've been working on a few ideas that, at junior levels of the game at least,  boys and girls play sport for the right reasons," Trodden said. "It's important that everyone else allows them to enjoy the game for the right reasons.

"We've been looking at some stuff in English soccer about letting children play and respecting their right to do so. On the flipside of that, we need to make sure we emphasise that when they do, it's done in a respectful manner."

While players often shake hands with their opponents after matches, it will be a first in league to  do so beforehand.

"That happens in some other sports, in football," Trodden said. "It's symbolic. We're trying to create some symbols and emphasise the concept to everybody. 

"By making the coaches and players wear armbands, we highlight the leadership aspects, that they set standards for everybody and that those standards are followed."