Tate: Troubled stars need our empathy
Former Maroons and Kangaroos legend Brent Tate has urged the rugby league public to look beyond the sordid headlines that have engulfed some NRL stars of late and instead look for a way to get them back on their feet.
An NRL ambassador, Tate writes this week in the Round 19 issue of Big League about some of the negative headlines that have been circulating in recent weeks and called for caution ahead of widespread condemnation.
A player with an impeccable record on and off the field throughout his decorated career, Tate highlights the fact that many players have come into rugby league via troubled backgrounds and are caught up in the same issues that affect many young people in society.
"I'm not saying NRL players have the right to get into trouble, but I think before judging, we must try to understand the circumstances behind their actions," Tate writes in Big League.
"Some of these players have had tough upbringings and, when they reach first grade, they are thrust straight into the limelight. They go from having no attention paid to them to having full coverage on the big stage.
"This can be difficult on them and we therefore see misbehaviour as a reaction. Instead of pointing the finger at young players, we need to try and help them with their behaviour off the field.
"Lots of players, especially some of the younger ones, have grown up in difficult places and have truly troubling backgrounds.
"When you hear the stories of some of the youngsters coming through, you realise it's an achievement for some of them to get to where they are. It's remarkable that some of them are now regulars in first grade.
"We have young men in our game who are going to make mistakes. Sometimes we have to be a little bit more understanding of what's going on and the issues some of them are dealing with.
"Occasionally people are quick to judge when a player gets themselves in trouble, but at the end of the day we're all human and people make mistakes."
The NRL has invested a great number of resources into player education in recent years and while those programs will continue for the next generation of NRL stars Tate says that the onus for proper behaviour ultimately falls back on the players themselves.
"The NRL and CEO Todd Greenberg are doing a good job educating players who are coming through and trying their best to clean up the image of the game," says Tate.
"However, there's a flipside to this situation and there are some behavioural standards we all have to uphold.
"Players have to realise that they're in a place of privilege, where they get paid good money to play first grade.
"When they accept the pay cheque every month, they also have to accept the responsibility to behave in a certain way and take responsibility for their actions."
The Round 19 issue of Big League is on sale at newsagents and at the ground. The digital version is also available through www.zinio.com, the iTunes Store and Google Play.