Oftentimes we try to be optimistic in our blog entries, but unfortunately today’s post is a slightly more macabre exception.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s easy to dismiss the issue of violence in junior rugby league as a non-issue, or an exaggerated matter, but today I’d like to share the story of Joe Pidik, to emphasise why this issue is so important.
Very few people in the rugby league community will recognise the name ‘Joe Pidik’, but I’d argue it comes with a cautionary tale that needs to be heard.
In August 2016, a brawl between two rival Papau New Guinea rugby league teams, after a referee was assaulted on the field by one of the team’s staff at the match’s conclusion. The brawl between the two clubs’ fans eventually spilled onto the streets.
Enter Joe Pidik. Reports vary slightly to the exact events, but what’s known is that Joe Pidik was in a truck which was attacked by rival supports.
Pidik was hit in the head with a brick at close range and rushed to hospital as a result. The attack proved to be fatal; Pidik, 23, succumbed to his injuries in hospital, leaving behind a wife and child.
Pidik’s story was scarcely reported outside PNG, but it’s a story which applies to all rugby league fans. It’s an ugly topic, but one we must address – rugby league’s violent culture is escalating, most notably in the junior grades.
Junior rugby league fans and players are the future of our game, therefore the message needs to be firmly embedded now: Rugby league does not tolerate violent conduct on or off the field.
It’s easy to dismiss this as a foreign one-off incident, but the reality is that incidents of assault in Australia’s junior rugby league competitions have not been significantly better.
I can now say that to my knowledge, violence in rugby league has led to the death of at least one man, and that’s one too many. This is the new despicable level we know this behaviour can escalate to.
Hopefully we’ll never see another sport related death like Joe Pidik’s – but if we do nothing, we expose ourselves to that risk.