Threat of violence plaguing junior rugby league

The evidence is clear, junior rugby league has a culture problem – today’s blog is simple, to highlight the root causes of this problem and show the potential for a better future.

The unfortunate truth is that in its current state, junior rugby league is still quite flawed, and as a result, many participants simply aren’t enjoying their experience. A research study by Gemba found that Queensland junior rugby league lost 11,641 players from Under6’s to Under17’s who did not return to the sport in 2015 after being registered in 2014.

Gemba’s study found overwhelmingly that an over-competitive game culture was a primary reason for players not returning when they were asked about their playing experience. Of over 600 responses, 44% cited, ‘safety’ and ‘fun & enjoyment’ among the reasons they did not return.

As we’ve highlighted in this blog, over-competitive aggression is one of the main concerns for junior rugby league, as many instances this year have highlighted how it can escalate into violence.

Gemba’s study into New South Wales junior rugby league found that 2015 saw an increase in reported incidents on and off-field across all Junior Rugby League districts and highlighted poor sideline and on-field behaviour as a reason to reduced playing numbers (a trend which continued into 2016).

Furthermore, 1 in 9 junior rugby league officials left the sport as a direct result of verbal and/or physical abuse. The severity of this issue was on display in June 2016 when a teenage suffered facial injuries after allegedly being punched by a 34-year-old.

junior-football-referee
A referee, 16, was brought to hospital after allegedly being attacked by a 34-year-old

Put bluntly, violence and an over-competitive culture are destroying junior rugby league. Junior rugby league needs an image reform to emphasise that the game’s main priority is enjoyment.

Junior football is not designed around a spirit of professional competitiveness, and it is unacceptable that participants be subjected to any form of physical or psychological trauma.

A resounding message of support from a diverse group of opinion leaders within the rugby league community is needed to create a safer, more enjoyable environment for junior football players of all ages.

Rugby league must show the public that it is better than its aggressive reputation, and certain behaviour will not be tolerated at any level.

Sources: Gemba Queensland player retention report 2014 to 2015, NSWRL junior league respect campaign

Image source: The Daily Telegraph

– JN

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