Hodges, Thurston condemn racial abuse
Justin Hodges and Johnathan Thurston have leapt to the defence of Queensland Origin teammate Dane Gagai after allegations the Knights fullback was subjected to racial abuse during Sunday's massive loss to the Sharks in Newcastle.
In a week where the game celebrated the contribution of Indigenous players and put its support behind campaigns such as Recognise and Close The Gap, the suggestion that Gagai could be racially abused showed that society as a whole still has some way to go.
Gagai broke down in tears in the arms of teammate Korbin Sims following the 62-0 loss, the general public learning the following day that his grandmother had passed away on the morning of the match.
A spokesperson for the NRL said that the Knights had made the NRL aware of the incident and that they would support the club's efforts to find the person who allegedly abused Gagai.
"The club has made us aware of it," the spokesperson said. "If more information becomes available we will work with the club to find the person responsible."
Hodges played alongside Gagai in his final Origin match for Queensland last year and expressed his great disappointment at the allegations that have been made.
"To be honest, if that happened it's 100 per cent disgraceful, especially being Indigenous Round and the loss of his grandmother that morning," Hodges told NRL.com.
"People have got to realise that this is their job, this is their passion, this is what they love, this is what they were born to do.
"They're going out there and playing in one of the toughest games in the world. Even though they're not getting the result they're digging in and having a go.
"There's no harm in yelling out and bagging people but to be racist... I thought we'd come a long way from where it was and in the society we live in today it's just not necessary.
"When our sons or daughters play anything or do something in life, they don't need to go through that type of stuff. It's just not called for."
Thurston, who along with Sam Thaiday and Greg Inglis were the faces of the NRL's campaign to support Recognise, said that if the allegations are found to be true that the action against the person involved should be swift and decisive.
"Ban him for life, 100 per cent. We don't need that in society or the game," said Thurston, who added that he hadn't ever been subjected to such racial abuse in rugby league.
"It would be very disappointing if that is true. From a game's point of view and a part of society, there's just no place in society for that type of behaviour. I'm hoping it's not true.
"I know the NRL are certainly doing its part to help close the gap, we have a number of Indigenous programs that are run by all the clubs. We are seeing great results from that, and if we are seeing racial behaviour from any of the fans, then ban them for life.
"We don't need it in society or in our game."
As we endeavour to rid racism from our society Hodges said it was just as important that friends and family of anyone who is guilty of racial abuse takes action to stamp it out completely.
"If they're coming to the game for the wrong reason then they shouldn't come," said Hodges.
"Getting racially abused is not on. We've seen that in the AFL with 'Goodesy' (Sydney Swans legend Adam Goodes), it's just not on.
"If you've got a mate carrying on and being racist it's up to the blokes beside him to tell him to pull his head in.
"His mates are probably just as bad as him if they didn't try to pull him up."