With the issue of violence in rugby league, it’s easy to focus on the negatives, but if we want to work towards a solution, we need to give just as much credit to the good. There’s no shortage of role models in rugby league; however, the problem is their good actions rarely receive as much publicity as others’ bad ones.
Take the example of former Brisbane and Penrith front rower Petero Civoniceva, who, despite his intimidating 193cm stature, is a well known rugby league nice guy and excellent role model for aspiring players.
Civoniceva played over 300 games in the NRL as a forward, with the ferocity you’d expect from a professional athlete. However, what sets Civoniceva apart from most league players is the work he’s continued to do to help communities and improve rugby league’s image since his retirement in 2012.
In 2015, Civoniceva was involved in a campaign to reduce the amount of violent assaults in Queensland. Civoniceva has also been an ambassador for non-violence in his native Fiji, where he recently spoke out to remind junior rugby league footballers to keep their aggression within the laws of the game.
Other examples include Jonathan Thurston, who is renowned for his work the indigenous community in north Queensland, Luke Douglas is a supporter of Down Syndrome Australia, Brenton Lawrence who is an ambassador for Autism Australia, Kevin Naiqama who helps feed the homeless in Kings Cross and Trent Hodkinson who works closely with the starlight foundation.
These examples only scratch the surface – in reality, a great majority of rugby league players do amazing selfless acts outside the game. The sad thing is, despite the incredible work undertaken by these individuals every day, it only takes a few acts of stupidity to undo their progress for the image of the game in the minds of the public.
The point I wish to make here is that fighting the culture of violence in junior rugby league isn’t merely about policing on-field behaviour. NRL players will always be role models for aspiring junior footballers and as such, examples of the good guys in rugby league need to become the new face of the game to cultivate a better culture within it.
Despite common perceptions, the rugby league community is full of level-headed individuals who devote their time and energy to giving something back to something greater than themselves.
It’s time the public sees more clearly the new breed of league players, and we add ‘kindness’ and ‘selflessness’ to the model league player’s desirable attributes.
Image source: The Daily Telegraph