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Rugby league, your image stinks, fix it

COMMENT

Todd Carney has probably played his last match in the NRL.

Todd Carney has probably played his last match in the NRL. Photo: Getty Images

On Saturday, around lunchtime, player agent Andrew Purcell asked me on Twitter "when did your shit stop stinking?".

The query was, as the late league journalist Peter Frilingos used to say, "apropos of nothing". In fact, my most recent posts had been a series of admissions about how bad I am at writing live match reports.

Of course, his choice of words would prove prescient, even if he confused his number ones with his number twos. The toilet was where the attention of rugby league would be focused by later that night.

John Hopoate squares up with Nathan Fien during the infamous match in Townsville in 2001.

John Hopoate squares up with Nathan Fien during the infamous match in Townsville in 2001. Photo: Getty Images

I have got no problem with Purcell, or anyone else, having a shot at me on social media. What I want to discuss is the sentiment inherent in his tweet: that we have all got something to hide, so none of us should highlight or condemn the actions of someone else.

My excrement certainly does still stink. I have and do perform acts which are drunken, stupid, sometimes even illicit and illegal. But it has never occurred to me to deposit that excrement in a shoe. I have never thought of simulating a sex act with an animal for a photo. The idea of imitating a drinking fountain, substituting my own urine for water, has not entered my head.

This is the bit where I am supposed to say, and have so many times before, that most NRL players are good role models and don't engage in anti-social behaviour.

Joel Monaghan left the NRL after an incident with a dog.

Joel Monaghan left the NRL after an incident with a dog. Photo: John Shakespeare

But bugger that.

Rather than try to reassure outsiders that rugby league is not as feral as it seems, right now it's more important to tell the delusional insiders reading this ... how feral it seems.

Firstly, there are the matters that go before the courts every two or three weeks: assault, domestic abuse, etc. Then there are acts that most people would not even conceive of unless they heard of a footballer doing them.

If you live in most parts of the world where they have heard of rugby but don't know there are two varieties, the last time you heard of the NRL was when a talk show mentioned John Hopoate poking someone's bum, or Joel Monaghan posing with a dog. "So this guy who drinks his own urine is from the same rugby competition as those guys? Holy Hell. It's a menagerie down there."

Rugby league's popularity in NSW and Queensland ferments ignorance. Players have no concept of the extent to which many, many people in this country look down on them as "meatheads" playing a "low-rent" sport. You think you are stars but to a large part of Australian society, you are lamentable outcasts.

How do you think it would feel to be an unpaid development officer in Hobart, running on chook raffles and borrowed goalpost pads, when the only time you make the local press is when an NRL player defecates in a hallway? This is the sport you are devoting all your spare time to? These guys are on a fortune and you're being paid nothing?

A former Cronulla chief executive, Damian Irvine, is right: we are expected to laugh at Paul Gallen knocking out Beau Ryan on Mad Monday when in fact it is appalling.

I am fond of saying player behaviour has improved 200 per cent over the past 15 years. But perhaps it has only improved 100 per cent, with the other 100 going underground, hidden beneath cliched soundbites and spin. Pull up the carpet and there is still malevolence.

The rebellious response to Carney's sacking from Sharks players represents a tipping point for the game's culture in this country. It's not just a clash of cultures, it's a war of ideologies.

On one side, there is an eternal boys club, an Orwellian Animal Farm that has arisen as a result of a male-only workplace, too much money, too much time and countless troubled childhoods.

This group wants the media blamed for reporting what they do (even when not a single paper was printed between the Carney picture emerging and his sacking), they want punching and shoulder charges reinstated, they think spewing and shitting and pissing are funny.

On the other is a governing body run by a former corporate banker trying to figure out why twice as many Australian women say they have been to an AFL game as to a rugby league match, and why rugby union still gets blue-chip sponsors despite all other indicators of its health indicating imminent cardiac arrest.

The reason is in a picture circulated on Twitter on Saturday night.

I say let the first knuckle-dragging group go, let them form their own competition with their own fans (including you, who is already seething about this column), sponsorship and media. Punt them – or they'll drag us down with them.

The romantic, historical view of rugby league is that it represented a social upheaval at the end of the industrial revolution; it empowered working-class people whose talents were being exploited for the profit of the elite running rugby union.

But I am beginning to think that is romantic nonsense. I am beginning to think it was just a grab for cash by people who had no other means to make some, and that is all it means to those people more than a century later.

Prove me wrong, David Smith.

After 119 years of wallowing in its own – yes Andrew, stinking – slime, the game is now at a point where it can either finally escape, or stay there forever.

245 comments

  • You're worried about rugby league now? After group sex, alleged rapes, violence on and off the field, drugs, gambling and it takes a guy playing with his willy to be the straw that broke the camel's back?

    Meanwhile in soccer la la land, they kill a thousand people to build some stadiums, bite each other, 600 hundred games under investigation by INTERPOL, no drug testing, dubious decisions deciding games, have serious amounts of money trousered by the most shady characters and nobody bats an eyelid. Soccer makes rugby look professionally run.

    Face reality, all sport other than the most amateur ones are stuffed.

    Commenter
    sport
    Location
    is wrecked
    Date and time
    July 01, 2014, 3:58PM
    • Here comes the 'Point the finger' brigade.
      We have no better justification of the condition the League is in, so lets try to move focus to soccer instead.

      Commenter
      Not Really
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 01, 2014, 4:14PM
    • Don't think the NRL has any control over international soccer.

      Commenter
      Paul
      Date and time
      July 01, 2014, 4:19PM
    • No. It's just Australian sports that are stuffed. That's why no-one outside of Australia has even heard of these clowns who pass for legends in these parts. Big fish in a paddling pool.

      Commenter
      Bobby
      Date and time
      July 01, 2014, 4:32PM
    • Just another comment to bash football .... the article is about the behavior of the players off the field. I attend A- League/Socceroos matches because I want my kids to look at sportsmen as role models not imbeciles.

      Tim Cahill/Mark Schwarzer OAM V Todd Carney/Blake Ferguson... I wonder whose code aspires our kids to greater things ?

      Commenter
      mark
      Date and time
      July 01, 2014, 4:40PM
    • Sorry sport, but, what does soccer have to do with this article? What does soccer have to do with how stupid RL players are?????

      Commenter
      TommyP
      Date and time
      July 01, 2014, 4:53PM
    • If Carney had done this stunt for an ABC TV show it would be labelled as satire and absolutely harmless. The double standards in sport and life are everywhere. Just look at the supposed 'blackest day in sport', politically manipulated, claims of unlawful processes, no major findings or actions. Look at cricket, life bans and jail for match fixing in the gentleman's sport. Look at soccer, one of the top three players in the world on the biggest stage bites an opponent in front of 3 billion viewers and denies it. Back to Carney, the civil libertarians would say Carney has the right to be who he is whilst on the other hand demanding his head.

      Commenter
      enough is enough
      Date and time
      July 01, 2014, 4:58PM
    • Ah, softball fans, a bit touchy aren't we. Why don't you comment against my FACTS? So, its OK to kill a thousand people to build stadiums?

      Rugby, AFL, Soccer, Cricket (who have just appointed a guy under investigation for corruption as the head of the ICC) have all been wrecked. The Officer Barbrady approach to life, 'move along, nothing to see here'

      Commenter
      sport
      Location
      is wrecked
      Date and time
      July 01, 2014, 5:04PM
    • @enough is enough - never miss an opportunity to rant against the ABC. Just tell us all when their chief executives were arrested for phone hacking , bribery and corruption charges. As the man said, this is about the stupidity of Rugby League players, not LNP spin doctors. Give it a rest, mate.

      Commenter
      eieio and away we go
      Date and time
      July 01, 2014, 5:13PM
    • @sport. I love and breath rugby league but your comments don't help our game. This article was about league. As the first post all you did was deflect to other sports then argued for people to disprove your facts. Well how about we address the facts in this article. Whether you like it or not there are problems in this code just like others but we wont ever fix them if we don't first acknowledge them, your attitude helps no one.

      Commenter
      Mitch
      Location
      Muswellbrook
      Date and time
      July 01, 2014, 5:27PM

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HuffPost Australia

NRL Season 2016

Round 1
Thu, 03 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR vs BRI 20:05Pirtek
Fri, 04 MarTimes shown AEDT
MAN vs CBY 20:05BO
Sat, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
CBR vs PEN 15:00GIO
WST vs NZW 17:30CSS
NQL vs CRO 19:301300
Sun, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs SOU 16:00AS
GCT vs NEW 18:30Cbus
Mon, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEL vs STG 19:00AAMI
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vs 00:00TBA
Sat, 10 SepTimes shown AEST
vs 00:00TBA
vs 00:00TBA
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Round 2
Thu, 10 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN vs CBY 20:05Pepp
Fri, 11 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs NZW 20:05SUN
Sat, 12 MarTimes shown AEDT
CBR vs SYD 15:00GIO
SOU vs NEW 17:30ANZ
PAR vs NQL 19:30Pirtek
Sun, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRO vs STG 16:00Shark Park
MEL vs GCT 18:30AAMI
Mon, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
WST vs MAN 19:00VAS
Fri, 16 SepTimes shown AEST
vs 00:00TBA
Sat, 17 SepTimes shown AEST
vs 00:00TBA
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Round 3
Thu, 17 MarTimes shown AEDT
NQL vs SYD 20:051300
Fri, 18 MarTimes shown AEDT
CBY vs PAR 20:05ANZ
Sat, 19 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs CBR 17:30HS
PEN vs BRI 19:30Pepp
GCT vs WST 21:30Cbus
Sun, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW vs MEL 14:00MSS
STG vs SOU 16:00SCG
Mon, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
MAN vs CRO 19:00BO
Fri, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
vs 00:00TBA
Sat, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
vs 00:00TBA
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Round 4
Fri, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU vs CBY 16:00ANZ
BRI vs NQL 20:05SUN
Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
CBR vs GCT 17:30GIO
SYD vs MAN 19:30AS
Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
STG vs PEN 16:00WIN
Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW vs NEW 14:00MSS
WST vs PAR 16:00ANZ
CRO vs MEL 19:00Shark Park
Sun, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
vs 00:00TBA
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Round 5
Thu, 31 MarTimes shown AEDT
MAN vs SOU 20:05BO
Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
GCT vs BRI 20:05Cbus
Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL vs NEW 15:00AAMI
WST vs CRO 17:30CSS
NQL vs STG 19:301300
Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD vs NZW 14:00AS
PAR vs PEN 16:00Pirtek
Mon, 04 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY vs CBR 19:00Belmore Sports Ground
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Round 6
Thu, 07 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STG 19:50SUN
Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
SOU vs SYD 19:50ANZ
Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR vs CBR 15:00Pirtek
NZW vs MAN 17:30MSS
PEN vs NQL 19:30Pepp
Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
CRO vs GCT 14:00Shark Park
NEW vs WST 16:00HS
Mon, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
MEL vs CBY 19:00AAMI
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Round 7
Thu, 14 AprTimes shown AEST
MAN vs PAR 19:50BO
Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
NQL vs SOU 19:501300
Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
GCT vs STG 15:00Cbus
CBY vs NZW 17:30Westpac Stadium
BRI vs NEW 19:30SUN
Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CBR vs CRO 14:00GIO
WST vs MEL 16:00VAS
Mon, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PEN 19:00AS
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Round 8
Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI vs SOU 19:50SUN
Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY vs GCT 15:00ANZ
CBR vs WST 17:30GIO
NQL vs PAR 19:301300
Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CRO vs PEN 16:00Shark Park
Mon, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
NEW vs MAN 14:00HS
STG vs SYD 16:00AS
MEL vs NZW 19:00AAMI
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Round 9
Thu, 28 AprTimes shown AEST
SOU vs WST 19:50ANZ
PAR vs CBY 19:50ANZ
Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
PEN vs CBR 15:00Carrington Park
SYD vs NEW 17:30CCS
MAN vs NQL 19:30BO
Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
NZW vs STG 12:00MSS
GCT vs MEL 14:00Cbus
CRO vs BRI 16:00Shark Park
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Round 10
Thu, 12 MayTimes shown AEST
STG vs CBR 19:50Jubilee Oval
Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
PAR vs SOU 19:50Pirtek
Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
PEN vs NZW 15:00AMI Stadium
MEL vs NQL 17:30SUN
MAN vs BRI 19:30SUN
Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
NEW vs CRO 14:00HS
WST vs CBY 16:00ANZ
Mon, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
GCT vs SYD 19:00Cbus
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Round 11
Thu, 19 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU vs STG 19:50ANZ
Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
NQL vs BRI 19:501300
Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
WST vs NEW 15:00CSS
NZW vs CBR 17:30Yarrow Stadium
CRO vs MAN 19:30Shark Park
Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
PEN vs GCT 14:00Pepp
CBY vs SYD 16:00ANZ
Mon, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
PAR vs MEL 19:00Pirtek
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Round 12
Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs WST 19:50SUN
Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
STG vs NQL 19:30WIN
Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR vs CBY 16:00GIO
Mon, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
NEW vs PAR 19:00HS
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Round 13
Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
CBR vs MAN 19:50GIO
Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW vs BRI 15:00MSS
NQL vs NEW 17:301300
MEL vs PEN 19:30AAMI
Sun, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs WST 16:00AS
SOU vs GCT 18:30nib Stadium
Mon, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY vs CRO 19:00ANZ
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Round 14
Thu, 09 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CBR 19:50SUN
Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
WST vs SOU 19:50ANZ
Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW vs NZW 15:00HS
PAR vs GCT 17:30TIO
SYD vs MEL 19:30AS
Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
MAN vs PEN 16:00BO
Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
STG vs CBY 16:00ANZ
CRO vs NQL 19:00Shark Park
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Round 15
Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
SOU vs PAR 19:50ANZ
Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
STG vs MEL 19:30WIN
Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW vs SYD 16:00MSS
Mon, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
GCT vs MAN 19:00Cbus
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Round 16
Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
PEN vs SOU 19:50Pepp
Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW vs STG 15:00HS
CRO vs NZW 17:30Shark Park
CBY vs BRI 19:30ANZ
Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
GCT vs CBR 14:00Cbus
MEL vs WST 16:00AAMI
Mon, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
NQL vs MAN 19:001300
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Round 17
Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CBY 19:50AS
Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
BRI vs MEL 19:50SUN
Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW vs GCT 15:00MSS
WST vs PEN 17:30ANZ
CRO vs PAR 19:30Shark Park
Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR vs NEW 14:00GIO
SOU vs NQL 16:00Barlow Park
Mon, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN vs STG 19:00BO
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Round 18
Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
PAR vs SYD 19:50Pirtek
Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
CBY vs WST 19:30ANZ
Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN vs CRO 16:00Pepp
Mon, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR vs NQL 19:00GIO
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Round 19
Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
STG vs GCT 19:50Jubilee Oval
Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN vs NZW 17:30nib Stadium
SOU vs BRI 19:30ANZ
Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NEW vs MEL 14:00HS
PEN vs PAR 16:00Pepp
Mon, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CRO 19:00AS
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Round 20
Thu, 21 JulTimes shown AEST
NQL vs CBY 19:501300
Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
BRI vs PEN 19:50SUN
Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR vs NZW 15:00GIO
GCT vs PAR 17:30Cbus
MEL vs SYD 19:30AAMI
Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CRO vs NEW 14:00Shark Park
STG vs WST 16:00ANZ
Mon, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
SOU vs MAN 19:00ANZ
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Wed, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW vs PEN 22:00MSS
Thu, 28 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs BRI 00:00AS
CBY vs STG 00:00ANZ
GCT vs CRO 00:00Cbus
PAR vs WST 00:00ANZ
SOU vs CBR 00:00ANZ
MAN vs NEW 00:00BO
NQL vs MEL 00:001300
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Thu, 04 AugTimes shown AEST
STG vs BRI 00:00WIN
PAR vs MAN 00:00Pirtek
CRO vs CBR 00:00Shark Park
NEW vs CBY 00:00HS
MEL vs SOU 00:00AAMI
GCT vs NZW 00:00Cbus
WST vs NQL 00:00VAS
PEN vs SYD 00:00Pepp
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Wed, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW vs SOU 22:00MSS
Thu, 11 AugTimes shown AEST
CBY vs MAN 00:00ANZ
BRI vs PAR 00:00SUN
WST vs GCT 00:00CSS
STG vs CRO 00:00Jubilee Oval
NEW vs PEN 00:00HS
SYD vs NQL 00:00AS
CBR vs MEL 00:00GIO
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Round 24
Thu, 18 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CBY 00:00SUN
SYD vs STG 00:00AS
NEW vs GCT 00:00HS
NQL vs NZW 00:001300
MAN vs MEL 00:00BO
CBR vs PAR 00:00GIO
PEN vs WST 00:00Pepp
SOU vs CRO 00:00ANZ
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Wed, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW vs WST 22:00MSS
Thu, 25 AugTimes shown AEST
CBY vs NQL 00:00Belmore Sports Ground
MEL vs BRI 00:00AAMI
GCT vs PEN 00:00Cbus
MAN vs CBR 00:00BO
CRO vs SYD 00:00Shark Park
NEW vs SOU 00:00HS
PAR vs STG 00:00Pirtek
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Wed, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW vs PAR 22:00MSS
Thu, 01 SepTimes shown AEST
BRI vs SYD 00:00SUN
CBY vs SOU 00:00ANZ
STG vs NEW 00:00Jubilee Oval
NQL vs GCT 00:001300
MEL vs CRO 00:00AAMI
WST vs CBR 00:00VAS
PEN vs MAN 00:00Pepp
View All Fixtures

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