NRL denies culture of violence despite horror off-season with five sexual assault charges
Domestic violence organisations have called on the NRL to push for institutional cultural change, as the league heads into a new year after what pundits have called an off-season of horror.
The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) revealed last night it was undertaking an audit of how club leaders combat the issue, which will be presented in the new year.
The NRL said it was taking a stance, with five players arrested and charged for violence against women in recent weeks.
“The audit really is about are we doing enough, are we doing it the right way, do we have the right leadership across our clubs, and all of those are open questions, good questions,” NRL chief Todd Greenberg said.
Domestic Violence NSW (DVNSW), the state’s peak representative body, welcomed the NRL’s review, describing it as “an interesting idea”.
Dylan Walker has been charged with assaulting his fiancee Alexandra Ivkovic at a Northern Beaches home. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)
“The number of incidents that have occurred over the past few weeks show the NRL must take urgent action, but more is required than that [review], there needs to be cultural change at an institutional, club and individual level,” said chief executive of DVNSW Moo Baulch.
White Ribbon Australia will be advising the NRL during the review and said policies must be improved to be made more consistent and send a strong message of zero tolerance.
The organisation is concerned about the recent “unacceptable” crimes.
“There is a clear disconnect between the NRL’s expectations of players and clubs’ responses to allegations of violence, and deeply ingrained attitudes, behaviours and power inequalities must be challenged,” White Ribbon chief Delia Donovan said.
“All sporting clubs and associations must model change and a primary prevention approach is needed to stop the violence before it starts.”
Jack De Belin has been charged with assaulting a woman he met at a nightclub in Wollongong. (AAP: David Moir)
A ‘horror’ off-season
While the playing season is on hold, league players have continued to attract off-field attention.
Jack De Belin of the Dragons was charged with the aggravated sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman in Wollongong.
Off-contract Jarryd Hayne is facing aggravated sexual assault charges against a woman he met online on grand final night.
Manly Sea Eagles’ Dylan Walker was charged with assaulting his fiancé at their Sydney home.
Jarryd Hayne has been charged with sexual assault and inflicting bodily harm. (AAP: Joel Carrett)
Wests Tigers’ Zane Musgrove and Penrith Panthers’ Liam Coleman have been charged with the indecent assault of a 22-year-old woman at a Sydney bar.
The NRL has not made any comment on the players’ futures ahead of their trials.
Mr Greenberg assured the public that if the players were found guilty, the NRL would react with appropriate sanctions.
“I’ve said this … I am very disappointed, these are very serious police charges, we won’t trample on the judicial system, but we will have plenty to say and will make decisions at the end of that process,” he said.
“It’s a great privilege to work in the game of rugby league, we take that privilege seriously, it is not a right, and when you don’t follow the rules we have to have consequences.”
NRL denies a culture of violence
While White Ribbon stated the recent alleged crimes indicated “an unhealthy culture is embedded in NRL clubs”, the NRL rejected the suggestion.
“I wouldn’t describe it as that — the majority of our players do a phenomenal amount of work across the game, but where players make poor decisions there have to be consequences and those consequences have to be material,” Mr Greenberg said.
“We will always confront issues from time to time in rugby league — I have long maintained people judge you on the issue as much as how you deal with it.”
Zane Musgrove faced court earlier this year for property damage after an argument with his partner. (Supplied: NRL)
The NRL precedent is to allow players to go through the legal process — which can take a year — before punishments are handed down.
Last year the NRL floated plans to hand out bans of nine months to life for players convicted of violence against women.
In past cases, players found guilty of violent offences have been allowed back to the game after serving bans.
The ARLC said appropriate action over these recent crimes was a priority.
“Commissioner Professor Megan Davis will also lead an audit of the current education and wellbeing programs combating violence against women, provided by the NRL, clubs and community partners,” chairman Peter Beattie said.
All players already receive compulsory education sessions and role-play courses to educate them about violence against women, drug and alcohol abuse.