NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, said that the appalling accounts on the Four Corners Programme last night should be seen as an opportunity to reinforce the importance of the changes that are being made in the game:
“The game, the clubs and the vast majority of players have devoted enormous efforts to promote cultural change since 2004. There is no doubt that the work we are doing is worthwhile and that it needs to continue.
“The harrowing experiences of those women featured on the ABC last night were distressing and it underlines the importance of maintaining our efforts.
“I repeat my apology on behalf of the game for the pain those women experienced.
“Violence against women is abhorrent and sexual assault and the degradation of women is just that.
“So much of what we saw last night was fundamentally indefensible and if anyone in the game today is ignoring the importance of that message then frankly they will need to find another career.
“This is not a time for clubs and players to complain about the media or the fact that victims have spoken out. It is a time to either accept the changes that we are putting in place or to quite simply get out.
“That must happen not just for the sake of the game but for the sake of the vast majority of our players who do not deserve to be associated with such headlines and whose work in inspiring people in the community is so often unheralded.
“Rugby League means an enormous amount to millions of people and in many ways the football we see today and the strength of the competition is better than it has ever been.
“No amount of on-field success though can take away from the need to face up to these issues.”
Significantly issues raised last night date back to 2002 and in 2004 the NRL Introduced a series of major initiatives to promote cultural change.
Those initiatives include:
· Major research into player attitudes and into effective means of delivering key messages.
· Guidance from external experts involving a broad range of people from the Rape Crisis Centre to academics and educators.
· A six-year commitment to developing and growing Playing by the Rules education programmes across all clubs, which have promoted positive attitudes to women from the moment players enter the professional ranks.
· The development in 2009 of an NRL tailored “Putting Youth in the Picture” programme devised by Adair Donaldson to promote sexual ethics and recognised as a ground breaking initiative in Federal Parliament. This is delivered by former players Nigel Vagana and Mark O’Neil.
· The development of game-wide protocols with the NSW Rape Crisis Centre to ensure that any allegation of sexual assault is properly investigated.
· Working with the Federal Police and drug educators to demonstrate the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, and the risk factors of both in the area of sexual encounters.
· Joining the NSW Department of Community Services in launching the Tackling Violence programme involving five regional and rural teams in the battle against domestic violence. This followed the success of the Normantown Stingers, which assisted in reducing domestic violence in their North Queensland community by 55%.
· A three-year participation in the University of Western Sydney ‘Sex and Ethics’ research programme conducted by Associate Professor Moira Carmody, which involved the participation of young players from rural and urban settings.
· Announced by the Prime Minister last month as the only sport (and the only predominately male organisation) to be chosen to pilot the Respectful Relationships Programme as part of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children. The programme was announced by the Prime Minister last month and is part of a $41.5M commitment from the Federal Government to tackle domestic violence, which affects 1 in 3 Australian women (1 in 5 of whom will fall victim to a sexual assault).
· Partnering the University of New South Wales and the NSW Rape Crisis Centre in an Australian Research Centre study over the next three years to evaluate the effectiveness of all current programs and to pilot mentoring programs for future implementation.
The NRL and its clubs have sent and will continue to send a clear message to those few who do not take heed of the programmes that are delivered.
Suspensions over the years have included Dane Tilse in 2005, Tevita Latu in 2006, Greg Bird in 2008 and a number of players in 2009. Clubs such as the Bulldogs in 2004, Newcastle in 2005 and Manly in 2009 have also been fined six-figure amounts.