The NRL (National Rugby League) is an icon of Australia sport. It is a league of professional men’s rugby, run by the Australian Rugby League Commission. It attracts millions of viewers from packed out stadiums in State of Origin or Grand Finals, to record TV statistics. Many players are considered idols and hero’s for young Australians, who are looked up to and considered role models within the community.
However, a recent string of public incidents has jeopardised the image of the sport, to the extent in which Rugby League CEO Todd Greenberg has implemented extreme measures to ensure the protection of the ‘image’ of the NRL.
Here is a list of some of the recent scandals, within the last six months:
Ben Barba, former Dally M winner and Grand Final Winner, sacked from the North Queensland Cowboys after ALLEGEDLY assaulting his partner
Dylan Napa, the recent high-profile signing of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, received punishment for a sex tape scandal after he was embroiled in a sex tape scandal OVER 6 YEARS AGO.
Jarryd Hayne, star of the NRL, stepped down by his club over an ALLEGATION of sexual assault which Hayne has please NOT GUILTY to.
Jack De Belin, charged with ALLEGEDLY sexually assaulting a 19-year old girl, and recently, charged with two additional counts of aggravated sexual assault in company, to which he has pleaded NOT GUILTY.
Now, it is possible that all three men are found guilty of their charges and the penalties so far distributed by the NRL are fair, but that denies the framework of the Australian legal system, the rule of law. I do not agree with the acts that may have been committed, and I also understand the worrying trend in these recent cases which indicate a deeper problem within Rugby League; however, a functional legal system requires the rule of law, and that starts with the presumption of innocence.
The presumption of innocence is vital in ensuring equality and fairness within a trial. The presumption of innocence is pivotal in recognising the effect media attention can have on an individual’s career, even if they are eventually found not guilty. The penalties given to these players have denied the rule of law in favour of preserving the ‘image’ of Rugby League. The consistent desire for creating a better ‘image’ has now led to a situation where ANY media reports regarding misconduct by an NRL player, regardless of the evidence provided results in immediate punishment.
The media attention, combined with the punishment, often leads to the loss of reputation and possibly a career. Even if Jarryd Hayne of Jack de Belin is found not guilty, their chances of returning to the NRL are slim, and any reputation they had built throughout their career has vanished.
Jack de Belin took the NRL to court to argue unfair treatment after the refusal of the NRL to allow de Belin to play for his club during the court process. Although the result of the hearing was unsuccessful for de Belin, the correct initiative was illustrated. The rule of law is imperative within the legal system, and the compromise of the rule of law should be argued and should be amended. Regardless of whether these Rugby League players are found guilty or not guilty, their rights need to be upheld to ensure balance within the legal system.
For Todd Greenberg, the choice of image over the rule of law is an easy decision and a popular decision. However, it can have harmful consequences not only to the players but to Rugby League itself. The precedent has been set, if someone comments on the alleged misconduct of a player, Rugby League has no choice but to issue sanctions, because that is equality. Oh wait, I forgot Rugby League neglects the legal system.