Its been an interesting few weeks for Rugby League with different on and off field incidents giving people a reason to tell all and sundry why they hate the game.
From Russell Packer pissing all over himself to Paul Gallen punching the hell out of Nate Myles. From allegations of assault aimed at Ben Te’o and Blake Ferguson to George Burgess alleged drunken rampage.
I wonder though, is the game damaged more by things that occur on the field of play, or by incidents that occur off it? Personally I think off field incidents are much worse than anything we see on the field.
At its highest level, Rugby League is a collision sport. It is a sport you have to be a tough hombre to survive in. When we see a fight on the field, everyone gets to their feet. Rugby League players are professional athletes, they play a high impact sport where the object of the game is to get hold of the ball, tuck it under your arm and run head long into 13 other players that want to stop you from crossing the try line.
It is a sport that is all about confrontations across the field. It is a sport that is about testing yourself physically against the opposition. That all of this sometimes descends into a fight is not a surprise.
Fighting on the field is an easy lightening rod for people that don’t like the game to attack. This is particularly true when you look at the Melbourne based media. To them, Rugby League is the big bad sport from the north, a gladiatorial spectacle that they are threatened by. Any chance they get to use a fight to warn Victorians against the northern menace that wants to corrupt your AFL angles is used thoroughly.
I tend to think when you see a major injury on the field, that does a lot more damage to the game. When a parent of a child that wants to play Rugby League see’s a bad leg break of a player taken from the field in a stretched, that would make them question whether their child should play Rugby League, and that is a completely reasonable response.
Something like Russell Packer pissing himself, well, that says more about Russell Packer than it does about the game itself…
Off field incidents tend to make people react differently. They tend to impact the general feeling people have towards the game over a longer period of time. While an off field incident occurs while we are viewing a game and emotionally invested in the contest, we normally hear about off field incident when we are not watching games and therefore thinking differently.
When you hear a player has done something stupid off the field, even if you love the sport, you feel disappointed. Disappointment is a negative feeling, and that negative feeling is something Rugby League should be looking to avoid at all costs.
Over the years there have been a number of big games we have gone into that have had their lead up effected by poor off field behaviour by players. its simply impossible to be disappointed by something and excited by it at the same time.
I personally believe off field incident do far more damage to the game than off field incidents. I doubt that the game has lost too many sponsors because 3.5 million people saw a fight in State Of Origin. Sponsoring a club that has continued off field issues though….that becomes a problem!
I want to know what my readers think. So make sure you vote in the Poll that is embedded in the middle of this article and feel free to leave your comments in the comments box below!
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
Nov 18, 2019 0