Why all Rugby League players are muppets


Yes, you better believe it – www.dylanmalloch.com is back from the dead.

Well, it was never actually ‘dead’ as such, I just lost the password to my ftp server so I couldn’t actually update it. Nevertheless, while you were all pining away for an update, I started thinking about what I could do to update my site when I finally got my login details back. Then, it hit me.

Figuratively speaking of course... what actually came to me was a moment of complete clarity regarding a sport that actually used to be my favourite sport in the universe: Rugby League.

You see, back in Primary School, specifically years 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, I was the biggest Rugby League fan on the planet. I made my Dad take me to every Canberra Raiders match at Bruce Stadium. I don’t think he actually wanted to go. In fact, I don’t think he even liked Rugby League. In fact, I’m quite sure he doesn’t. Anyway, the point is, I was addicted. The fast running. The massive tackling. The skilful kicking. The bullet-like passes. The game was just damn exciting.

However, something I think of when I reminisce on Rugby League’s glory days is not simply how the quality of the play was better; how the rules were better, or how the crowds were more into the game. Rather, I think about something that was non-existent. Dodgy player behaviour.

Now, it’s entirely possible that it’s just because I was too young to know better that I was oblivious to what was really going on, however I don’t think so. Looking back through the archives, you’ll be lucky to come across many stories of sexual assault allegations, drunken nights on the town where rules were broken, or massive fights breaking out. Personally, I think this is because of three reasons.

  1. Back then, players weren’t the superstars they are today. Sure, they were better players, but they didn’t have the superstar recognition. This is because of a number of reasons. Firstly, there was no national TV coverage other than Friday Night Football and an hour of Sunday football highlights. That was it. These days, every game is broadcast in its entirety either live or in delayed Prime Time. In essence, players get a lot more exposure these days. Also, it wasn’t a national competition.

    Back in those days the League was still trying to work out how it could escape from being a Sydney suburban competition. The League was still referred to as the New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) so therefore there was little to no national exposure again. If you were in Melbourne and said, who won the Rugby League tonight, you are guaranteed that they respondent would stare at you and wonder if you were either a) on crack, or b) on marijuana. Again – exposure was less.

    What’s my point? Well, if a Rugby League player had a big night, it simply wasn’t news. It was the equivalent of you or me having a big night on the town and someone taking a compromising photo of you. What would be the result? Well, if you were to call Jacqueline Magnay from the Sydney Morning Herald and say “Guess what, my mate got plastered last night and I have photos!” she would hang up on you quicker than Barack Obama would hang up on Kevin Rudd. It’s not news. Same thing back then – since nobody really knew who half the players in Rugby League were, it wouldn’t make headlines.

  2. The drinking culture that is lambasted today, was definitely not an issue in the early nineties/late eighties. In fact, the drinking culture was celebrated by all. Rather than pitching Rugby League as a national game, the League still embraced its worker’s clubs heritage. Two examples:

    Firstly, do you remember the 1991 Grand Final? I do. In fact I still wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night after a nightmare involving Greg Alexander kicking a field goal. Anyway, whenever either team would score a try, the TV coverage (Channel 10 with the immortal Grahame Hughes providing the play-by-play) would cut to the scoring team’s Leagues Club where they would show drunken yobbos going absolutely nuts. Essentially, nobody cared that people were getting plastered while watching the game. It was celebrated... on live TV.

    Secondly, when the Raiders won the 1990 Grand Final, the team was heading back to Canberra by bus. Yep by bus. No private jets here folks! What happened though, was that Laurie Daley was so drunk that he decided to hold the Winfield Cup (yep, a cigarette sponsored trophy – those were the days) out the bus window and proceeded to drop it. The trophy shattered. Imagine if a drunken Manly player had dropped the Telstra Cup during last year’s Grand Final celebrations. The uproar would have been deafening. Statements would be issued from everywhere with statements like “bringing the game into disrepute’ and ‘don’t they know they’re role models?’ What happened then? Simple – the news coverage was laughable. The fact that it was dropped was celebrated by fans, media and players alike. Oh how far we have come.

  3. Lastly, and this is similar to point one, the players weren’t professionals, and they certainly weren’t paid anywhere near what they’re paid today. When Laurie Daley scored the second try of the 1990 Grand Final, Channel 10 showed an information graphic that had Daley’s ‘occupation’ listed. That’s right, they listed his occupation even though he was playing in the Rugby League Grand Final! Even more crazy, guess what his occupation was.


    A truck driver.

    Yep, you read that right.

So, that means that players had less cash, less profile, and drunkenness was celebrated. No wonder the NRL is having a hard time stamping out bad player behaviour. They’re not just railing against players with a greater number of front teeth than IQ, they’re trying to reinvent the culture of an entire game that has been around for 100 years!

Ok, I should clear something up. I’m not defending League players. In my books they are all complete muppets. However, it should give you a little idea into why League players are such muppets.

What is the stupidest example of this dodgy behaviour? Well, Brett Stewart – welcome to the program!

Brett Stewart (Manly’s fullback) was the put forward as the face of the game in 2009. He was identified as being a highly skilled player with excellent morals. Surely he couldn’t ruin the game? Well, Stewart stepped up to the plate spectacularly. Not only was he escorted out of a pub less than 8 hours after the season’s launch because he was unable to stand, but he was also charged with sexual assault. Oh the humanity!

To further the case against Stewart, at the season launch he sat down with Channel Nine’s The Footy Show (by far the worst example of sporting analysis in human history) and was asked about if he felt extra pressure given that he’d be under greater scrutiny as the ‘face of the game’. Stewart’s answer was basically:

“It’s the responsibility of every player to ensure the fans keep coming back to the game. I suppose we haven't helped out matters, some blokes getting in trouble whatever...  I don't know ...what do you do? You've just got to be aware of it when you go out, just know you're always being watched.”

Wow Brett. A round of applause to you. I hope he realises that for the next five years at least he will have zero credibility. He goes on camera claiming to have an increased understanding of player’s responsibility, yet less than 10 hours later, he is too drunk to stand and charged with sexual assault.

What a muppet.

Essentially the future of Rugby League is in its own hands. Until the League realises that it can’t change a 100 year old drunken culture with a ‘player’s agreement’ then there will be no change in player behaviour. Until the NRL realise what to do, you can expect to see as many stories about dodgy player behaviour as you would hear of Lindsay Lohan's dodgy behaviour.

Hardly an award-winning effort..

What do I think the NRL should do? I have a few ideas, but I’ve already written over 1300 words so I think I’ll leave that for another time. Feel free to email me your thoughts though..

Click here to email Dylan about the above column.

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The early nineties were
Rugby League's glory days

Alan Langer
The NSWRL had trouble initially dealing with
breaking into a national audience.
Dylan still has nightmares
about the 1991 Grand Final.
brett stewart
Brett Stewart has cemented
himself as an all-time muppet.
Lindsay Lohan still attracts her
share of controversy.