NRL: Players keep feeding the trolls

We are rightly critical of the negative bias in some media circles against rugby league, but the game's players keep giving them ammunition.


Picture credit: Matt King

The story itself is only breaking but as the full facts of the South Sydney Rabbitohs ‘sexting’ scandal come to light it’s safe to say those who maintain a negative agenda in covering the game will be salivating at the prospect of more fallout.

The NRL is currently dishing up some high-quality finals footy and the big stories should revolve more around the clash of big rivals Penrith and Cronulla or South Sydney and St George Illawarra but with dumb decisions and a lack of common sense, players continue to put themselves and the game under the intense glare of papers like The Daily Telegraph who are all too happy to cut them down.

Not for one minute am I suggesting that sending lewd or explicit images to someone without their express consent is fine or condoned, it’s definitely not on, but beyond the welfare of the victim in this matter and for past victims of atrocious player behaviour, my concern rests with the image and health of rugby league as a whole.

Inexcusable actions

If it is proven that South Sydney players broke the law and engaged in lewd and lascivious behaviour, I hope they are punished thoroughly and in line with their actions. This sort of thing has been made easier by the prevalence of social media, apps and smartphones, but the problem is not confined to rugby league or, indeed professional sport, the problem is a societal one in which young, impressionable people have ready access to so much technology and such little understanding of the consequences of their actions.

We’re not going to solve the underlying issues which lead to this sort of behaviour on a sports website, nor should that be our aim, the primary focus of this piece is to look at the impact this sort of behaviour has on the game without taking the well-trodden and easy path of bashing rugby league.

This culture issue is not confined to the young men who play professional rugby league, but unfortunately, when they fall into the same traps and problems as any other young men do, they become representatives of something much bigger and, invariably; they become a stick with which the likes of Phil Rothfield can bash the game’s administration and image.

Rothfield and his cronies have shown consistently that they’re happy to earn a fair wedge off the back of rugby league on one hand while using the other to stick a knife into the game and it should come as no surprise that the Telegraph is amongst the first to run a negative story into the ground whenever possible.

An overarching agenda

For every decent, positive yarn they cobble together and churn out over at the Tele, they are prepared to write the negative article, rinse it and re-run it for days on end. The overarching problem is not so much that the negative piece is written, but that it dominates the storyline for days while the positive pieces seem to have barely any staying power whatsoever.

They will tell you that scandal and mayhem sell papers while stories about nice guys visiting sick kids doesn’t turn pages, but from the growing backlash against the way the media covers the game in Australia, I think we’re starting to see that’s not the case.

We all come to rugby league from many paths, but the fact we come to the game binds us and at the end of it all, it’s a love of footy that brings people through the gates, churns out pay television subscriptions and, ultimately, feeds the media beast.

Now that we as a group of rugby league fans are starting to voice our dissatisfaction for the way mainstream media frames the context around our game, hopefully they’ll take notice and start giving the people what they really want.

Do you think some publications have a negative bias when covering rugby league or are they simply giving the people what they want? Let us know in the comments below.





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Daniel Lang

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Rugby League & Cricket editor at RealSport.

Daniel is a passionate advocate for the game of rugby league and the development of the sport across the world and, as such, writes with a zeal and determination to spread the gospel of the game.

A huge fan of cricket, football, NFL, Tennis and Supercar racing in Australia, Daniel can quickly find himself a casual fan of just about any sport after putting his mind to watching it.

Daniel is also one-half of the hugely successful podcast 'Panthers Weekly with Strawbs & Teach' where he talks all things Panthers Weekly while he also hosts the current affairs show 'the Strawbs Show' and the 'Summer of Cricket with Strawbs & Shnuu' as well as appearing on the Sydney FC covering 'Nothing But Blue Skies' podcast occasionally.

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