WAG divulges ‘frightening’ NRL secrets
THE 2018 off-season has been a black-eye for NRL.
A series of high profile violence against women cases has dented the game's already strained relationship with key stakeholders - women and families.
The wife of former Melbourne Storm star Ryan Hoffman on Tuesday took the extraordinary step of writing an opinion piece to share her disgust at the scary trend of NRL players disrespecting women.
In 2019 the game has been overshadowed by unresolved accusations of sexual assault and domestic violence against women from NRL contracted players.
The NRL's headache will carry into 2019 with Jarryd Hayne, Jack de Belin, Dylan Walker, Zane Musgrove and Liam Coleman all to face court next year.
Hayne was charged with aggravated sexual assault and inflicting actual bodily harm following an incident in Newcastle on grand final night. Hayne has strongly denied the accusations and has entered a plea of not guilty.
Dragons star Jack de Belin was charged with aggravated sexual assault in company on December 13 following allegations he and another man sexually assaulted a 19-year old woman after a night out in Wollongong.
Manly star Walker was arrested and charged at his northern beaches home after allegedly assaulting his fiance. The Manly centre was charged with common assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The series of disturbing headlines prompted ARL chairman Peter Beattie to admit the game is being killed by player misbehaviour.
"If we don't respect women no one will respect our game," Beattie told The Sunday Telegraph recently.
"It is becoming an embarrassment. These alleged assaults against women are killing the game's reputation and standing in the community. That will affect the game's ability to attract corporate sponsorships and women to the game."
His words have now been rammed home by Mel Hoffman who has brutally exposed the NRL club culture that reinforces the attitudes of players that they are "above normal rules".
"I have quite literally lost count of the number of NRL players who are currently accused of assaulting women over the years," Mel Hoffman wrote in a newspaper column shared to her personal website.
"Until October this year, my husband Ryan (Hoffman) was an NRL player, and had been for 16 seasons. So as part of this community, it is particularly heartbreaking.
"It is frightening, appalling, and as violence always is, utterly unacceptable. And it needs to be said, this is not a football issue. Torn up contracts, missed training sessions and stalled careers all pale in comparison to the actual, human cost paid by victims of violence and abuse.
"Unfortunately, allegations of violence against women by football players are nothing new."
She writes, in her extensive experience, that the argument that violence against women caused by NRL players is simply symptomatic of wider societal issues is complete bogus.
"In recent times, players have actually been made to attend training (during their paid working hours) where in a variety of creative and engaging ways, they are taught in no uncertain terms, that violence against women is never okay," Hoffman penned.
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"Sure, many professional workplaces have anti-discrimination and bullying training, but these are a bunch of blokes who are annually reminded specifically that violence, or any kind of abuse against women, is not acceptable.
"Let me just say that again: it is someone's job to sit down with groups of fully functioning adult human beings, and make sure they understand that it is wrong to hurt women.
"It's a sad state of affairs, but if it goes any way to helping protect at-risk women then I'm glad that this type of training exists.
"That said, the existence of this training is the reason I don't buy the whole, 'it happens in the world so it happens in rugby league' argument. This is a group of men who are privileged by education, when others are not. There is never any excuse, but it is particularly true here."
She claims the root cause of the disrespect players show to those outside their own dressing room stems from the belief that - as professional footballers - they are better than others they bump into on the street. That belief is reinforced, she says, every day by the football club environment.
"The point is, in a variety of ways, rugby league - and particularly the playing group - has long been a space that only teeters on the cusp of professionalism and as a result, the normal rules - workplace, societal and otherwise - don't always apply," she claims.
"But given the diabolical consequences that are being faced by women everywhere, both involved in the industry and beyond, it would be great to see NRL clubs backing up their anti-violence training with some changes to approach and therefore to the powerful subconscious messaging. Step up the professionalism.
"Stamp out the larrikin culture. Put women in positions of real power. Align your behavioural policies with those of the rest of professional Australia. Simply put, send the message - the rules absolutely apply to you too."