When rugby league parted ways with CEO David Gallop last year, it was made very clear that the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) Chairman John Grant thought the now soccer supremo was “too reactive”.
Since then, the game has become more reactive, not less. The shoulder charge ban comes immediately to mind.
It all reached new heights last weekend when the league “banned the biff”. That is, it declared a zero tolerance policy to punching in what The Sunday Telegraph described as “the toughest crackdown on foul play in rugby league history”.
Whilst league supremos were giving themselves high fives for making the world a safer place again, Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson – who’ve both brought the game into disrepute in the past – were out slapping rugby league in the face for the poor way it has dealt with off-field issues in the past.
I stress that whilst Ferguson has been charged with indecent assault, his case is still before the courts and they remain only allegations at this stage.
If anything, Ferguson’s actions proved that there’s much bigger issues in rugby league than banning something that is already against the rules (ie – punching someone in the head).
The NRL should be congratulated for the leadership it has shown in suspending the registration of Ferguson within hours of him being charged.
But, the same NRL supremacy that has shown excellent leadership in the suspensions of James Tamou and Ferguson is the very same one that is quite happy for Josh Dugan to be the ressurected hero, playing the pinnacle of the game just months after repeated off-field incidents and a bad attitude saw him kicked out of the Raiders.
For many years I’ve defended rugby league and its players, as I am reasonably confident that they are only reflective of society as a whole. Go out any weekend and you will see young men their age do things you simply wouldn’t believe.
But to be honest, I’ve had a gutful and so has the league fanbase.
This week, rugby league got it what deserved.
When Dugan and Ferguson got themselves in trouble earlier this year, the only real punishment handed out was to Canberra, who were brave enough to let Dugan walk out the door.
Within weeks, Dugan was playing at another club. Within months, he was selected to play in the pinnacle of the game. And the NRL, it seems, doesn’t have a problem with it at all.
It is the ultimate double standard that the NRL wants to stand tall and “ban the biff”, but is so reluctant to ban the idiots.
In relation to the rather stupid “biff ban”, let’s not forget that it has never been legal in rugby league to punch somebody.
Punishments have always existed, and the blue that started all of this – Gallen’s punches to the head of Nate Myles in Origin I – resulted in Gallen being suspended for one game.
You would struggle to find a rugby league fan who didn’t love the biff between Gallen and Myles in Origin I.
And yet, in our politically correct world, rugby league decided it was a bad look. A bad look to who?
One argument has been the example it sets for young kids who play the game each week. But Gallen was suspended, so doesn’t that serve as a message, too?
For years, Origin has been billed as the most aggressive form of footy. A lasting image of an angry Mark Geyer and Wally Lewis standing face-to-face during a biff has been used to promote Origin and its intensity for years and years.
Now, in the ultimate double standard, we’ve decided we don’t like it anymore.
Ah, but the kids will be safer and the message so much better.
But what message does it send when the ARLC is quite happy for Dugan to be a star in the pinnacle games of the rugby league calendar, even after one of its own clubs terminated his contract in March?
To issue some sort of blanket ban on fighting – which was already against the rules – and take away the ability of the referee to determine the immediate punishment on the field, whilst being quite happy for a player like Josh Dugan to be celebrated, just doesn’t make sense.
Sometimes, rugby league really does make a fool of itself.
This week, Blake Ferguson perhaps gave the game its biggest wake-up call.
Like a sledgehammer to the head, hopefully the ARLC has now realised the harsh action it has to take against misbehaving players.
If the result is kicking them out for good, so be it.
It’s time we cracked down in the toughest possible way.xciting to watch”.