- Jan 25, 2013
Welcome to the NSWRL Digest, where you can get the scoop unfiltered, unbiased, and direct from the NSWRL itself. We will take on some of the hardest hitting questions, from what the NRL does to remain the pinnacle of sport in Australia, to some of the biggest concerns plaguing the game. This episode we celebrate Rugby League by acknowledging the issue of diversity.
NSWRL 001: Diversity
NSWRL declares it has always championed diversity, points to Broncos & Warriors
This last week we saw a Rugby League player sidelined for four weeks due to a homophobic slur, and while on the surface it may seem a harsh penalty, it’s not that surprising when the NSWRL has always taken diversity extremely seriously. We asked Douglas Herron, long-serving staff member of the NSWRL, to outline his thoughts on the matter.
“Yeah we have always strived to embrace diversity”, he said.
“Casual punters may think that this is just a recent thing, what with the way the world is changing, but if you look back through our history you’ll see it’s something we have always done. It’s not just the sheilas running round in the girls comp, or the gays which we have let play this great game despite how uncomfortable it makes the straight guys feel whenever they get tackled”, he explained.
“When you talk about us letting some of the more undesirable people of society play this game, you have to think back to 1988 when we let those guys up north, the Broncos, join the comp”.
“There was a lot of backlash at the time”, said Herron, who was part of the administration at the time, and experienced the upheaval that it caused. “A lot of noses were put out of joint, and rightly so, because this is our game (NSW), it will always be our game, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t let others have a go at it”.
Dark days for NSW fans
“There were some dark days there for a while”, he conceded. “A few of us were wondering if we had done the right thing. The Broncos ended up going pretty good there, which was a real concern. There was almost a whole decade there where they went really good, too good, to the point that they were actually starting to deny Sydney teams their right to a premiership, and let me tell you there were a lot of upset clubs in those days”.
“But an organisation like the NSWRL doesn’t concede that easily. We tweaked a few things. We worked with a few clubs there to make sure the NSW teams didn’t lose their stars. Joey Johns, for example. He was really close to leaving for the Broncos, but we worked hard with him. We left no stone unturned. As it was, we actually got a bit lucky in the end, found some incriminating footage involving him, some illicit drugs, and a shipping container full of lubricant destined for the Newcastle mines, and in the end we were able to convince him to stay below the Tweed”.
“There were some other things too. Introducing the Storm was great. We told them to keep their mits off the best NSW talent, but they could have their pick of the Queensland blokes. The proof is in the pudding for that one, the Broncos haven’t won a premiership since 2006, which has really brought a great sense of relief for us NSW boys”.
“And even now, these last few years, we’ve been working hard to make sure they know their place, that they are welcome to play in the comp but they shouldn’t forget that they are there at our discretion. We’ve introduced a few things, like the 6-agains, that make it really easy for the refs to manage the games on the run, quick enough that they don’t get bogged down in replays and analysis, which means that even if they are able to attract a decent squad, there is always a way to keep them out of games and ensure they don’t go stealing points off our core clubs”.
The 6-again has been incredibly successful in helping the NRL manage games
When pressed on the Warriors, Herron was much more confident.
“That one’s been easy. I mean, sure, let those guys play, that’s fine. Like we always say, Rugby League is the people’s game, even if those people are, you know, different. But thankfully they have Union there as the top sport, so the best talent goes there and it’s only the meatheads and the losers that end up playing for the Warriors. They’ve made a Grand Final I think, that was a scare, it was like “Oh no, it’s the Broncos all over again”, but thankfully that was just a fluke and they were back to making mistakes and getting themselves in strife again the next year”.
Asked if there were any new innovations the NSWRL was looking in to, Herron was quick to respond.
“Crims, mate. Yeah guys just out of the slammer, on probation, whatever. Diversity goes two ways. If you have to let the girls and the gays play, it would be unfair to exclude other minorities that people would normally want kept quiet or out of sight. We’ve actually been trialling this the last few years with Parra, they’ve got some really hardened guys in that team, many of whom built their physiques in the prison training yard, and it’s been going good. I’d like to think that in a few years time we’ll be able to introduce an 18th team that’s calls the NSW Correctional System home. I mean, just because you stabbed a guy because he owes you drug money doesn’t mean you should lose the opportunity to make a living via the Greatest Game Of All”, he said.
Manu Ma'u, reveling in the opportunity to bash people up and be paid for it.
So there you have it, folks. An eye-opening insight in to the NSWRL and how we should be thankful for the work they do in opening its arms to anyone and everyone.