Rugby League is the only sport I know of where events that happen in and around the game can all be linked to its ultimate demise.
Such was the case in the fallout of Friday nights brawl between the Melbourne Storm and the Manly Sea Eagles.
The first fight was not bad, but nothing spectacular. The second fight as Glenn Stewart and Adam Blair left the first after being sin binned, now that was juicy stuff!
Blair and Stewart traded a few blows, but nothing that was going to cause any damage. It saw a group of Sea Eagles players run across the field and all start pummeling Blair. That drew both teams over and players even come off the bench, more to break things up than anything else.
At the end of all this, Blair and Stewart were sent off, no one was hurt, and the game proceeded.
Still, it was enough to draw the usual “the sky is falling” crowd out to give their two cents. Whether its be because they make their livings out of general sensationalism or what, you had people saying it would turn “Mums and Dads” off the game, it would upset sponsors, no one likes to see that type of things, blah, blah, blah.
Now, I’m as conscious as anyone about the need for the game to convey a positive image. However, I put this to you…
After some of the things we have seen happen over the last decade, from rape allegations, sex scandals, players walking out on contracts, salary cap breaches, stupid off field behavior involving drugs and alcohol, driving charges….after all of that….is the game less popular than it once was, or it it more popular today than it has ever been?
I think the view of the insular, ignorant Melbourne media is a good gauge. You see, they love to talk about “Thugby League” and run the game down. They talk about the disgraceful images we see at State Of Origin time where sometimes, teams get into fights. Its horrible, not like their amazing VFL. You don’t want your kids to play a game played by thugs do you?
Then, State Of Origin rolls around and it rates its arse off on TV down in Melbourne.
The inability of some people to see the disconnect between the very elite level of Rugby League, and junior Rugby League is amazing in my eyes. The NRL is Rugby League pushed to an extreme level. Yes it is the same sport played by younger players, but it is being played by professional athletes you are competing on a basis that is a complete different animal to what kids are doing when they play Rugby League.
Just look at the size of some players running around these days. David Taylor mentioned this week that he is 127 kilograms. Mose Masoe is another giant human being running around at the elite level. In fact, I don’t think we have ever seen a season like we have this year where the size and speed of forwards has really shown that these guys are tough just surviving the brutality they encounter on a weekly basis.
To think that what happens between this group of elite players is representative of what happens at the junior levels of the game is just stupidity. Its a different animal.
I think one thing the NRL does poorly is not convey that difference to the media.
Imagine what it takes for someone to get mentally prepared to face the collisions we see on a Rugby League field. Imagine the mindset you would have to go to just to have the courage to run out on the field and not think, but know you were going to encounter the brutality we see in the NRL.
You can’t ask players to enter a violent environment and then reel in horror when things boil over occasionally. It is going to happen!
In the case of the Sea Eagles and Storm, I think we will see the NRL come down as hard as it can on both teams without completely destroying their title aspirations.
I would think we will see Blair miss maybe a week, Stewart miss two to three weeks, and the players that ran across the field to get involved in the second fight getting two weeks as well. All up it wouldnt surprise me if we saw 8-10 suspensions from this game, and I would also expect we will see both teams comp major fines.
All players back for week one of the finals.
Now, can we please stop pretending that the game is about to up and die every time something happens? Its been going for over a century now, it has never been in better health. I think it will be ok….
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
Apr 22, 2021 0