Sad scenes over the weekend, as violence once again reared its ugly head during an under-17s grand final at Brookvale Oval. Rugby league thrives on passion, but incidents such as these further demonstrate the need for a cultural shift within the game.
By nature, rugby league is a high-intensity, heavy contact sport, but rugby league should emphasise that the adrenaline and rush of blood on the field mustn’t ever escalate to these scenes of violence.
Rugby league is a true-grit sport which has produced some hardened individuals; however, violence is not what made these players iconic figures.
Former NRL superstar Matt Johns, who won a premiership with the Newcastle Knights in 1997, was present at the game and witnessed the brawl. The severity of the matter was such that Johns felt it was a matter for police rather than rugby league officials.
National rugby league CEO, Todd Greenberg, similarly expressed disappointment, claiming that these incidents take the game a step backwards.
The message is clear, NRL officials and former players both condemn violence in junior rugby league, yet the issue still persists. Clearly, more needs to be done to prevent these incidences and protect players in the future.
While Greenberg and Johns’ efforts to condemn the violence are noble, rugby league needs a resounding message from players and other role models in rugby league.
Rugby league players are renowned for their strength throughout the sporting world, therefore their message should be clear – violence in junior football matches doesn’t make you tough, it only earns you the disgust of the rugby league world.
What action do you think rugby league should take against junior football violence?