Rugby League

Players' union chief Ian Prendergast to propose more education to reduce off-field incidents

New RLPA chief executive Ian Prendergast will this week discuss with club bosses a proposal for players to be given a mandated half day off each week for professional development as a measure to help reduce off-field incidents.

Cronulla fullback Valentine Holmes' brush with police after breaking curfew with up to five other members of the Emerging Maroons squad in Brisbane last weekend and the on-camera antics of drunken Sydney Roosters captain Mitchell Pearce at a party on Australia Day have again raised questions about what the NRL and clubs can do to limit such incidents.

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One idea gaining in support is to encourage players to develop other interests outside the game and while many now study or take an active role in community work those who find themselves in trouble often don't.

"In my experience holistic player development plays a huge role in terms of limiting the integrity issues that we find ourselves dealing with as a game as a result of players acting in a way which could suggest that they are a bit lost and they are struggling with the pressures of being a high profile sports person in the current landscape," said Prendergast, who joined the RLPA in December from the AFL Players Association.

"If you look at some of the issues that have occurred over a few years with respect of player conduct, in my experience they largely involve the 24/7 footballer, who doesn't have much else going on in their lives, so we could help limit the impact on the individuals involved as well as everyone around them, the clubs and the game, by putting in place a structure and investment in resources and personnel."

The RLPA and the NRL have been discussing the issue for some time and Prendergast confirmed it would be on the agenda when he addresses club chief executives for the first time in Auckland on Friday ahead of this weekend's Nines tournament.

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Prendergast said a number of coaches had already indicated their support for the concept but they wanted to ensure other clubs gave their players time off to study or undergo training in an area outside the game before they would commit to doing so.

"Based on the conversations I have had with clubs, including coaches, they are supportive but they want consistency to exist across the whole competition," he said.

"At the moment players get a day off but as I understand it that time is being eroded, at some clubs at least, by other commitments being scheduled in so if you think about a player needing to get organised in life – not just in respect to the high performance commitments that are expected of them - they need time to be able to dedicate towards that.

"We are working with the industry to try to find the right balance but adding a half a day off that they could use for professional development that is locked in would certainly go some way towards achieving that objective."

"Provided we work together through this process and come up with a really prescriptive approach that is crystal clear for everyone I am confident that we will get the buy in of all clubs and it will be of huge value not only to the players but the whole industry in terms of improved culture within the environment of football clubs."

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