Katie Holland is the Rotorua Daily Post deputy editor

Editorial: Jerseys show players caring

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Te Puke Sports Premiers try on their special jerseys for their upcoming charity fundraiser against Te Puna in the Baywide rugby competition.
Te Puke Sports Premiers try on their special jerseys for their upcoming charity fundraiser against Te Puna in the Baywide rugby competition.

It's a sport that's traditionally been associated with the most macho of attitudes.

Rugby players are meant to be tough, staunch and in my experience there's not a lot of talk about emotions in the club rooms on a Saturday night.

So it's great to see the initiative by the Te Puke Sports Premier 1 side, who will this weekend wear specially made jerseys highlighting the "It's Not OK" campaign against domestic violence. It's also a fundraiser, with proceeds from the gate charge going to the Te Puke branch of the campaign and supporters encouraged to dress in black.

Cynics may say it's just a jersey, just a gesture that won't change anything.

But I disagree. It's another step in the right direction. Young men such as Te Puke co-captains Dan Hollinshead and Aidan Ross - both potential Bay of Plenty Steamers - are role models in their community.

Them speaking out against family violence is further chipping away at a culture within our communities that has in the past allowed abusers to get away with it, that's made it hard for victims to speak out, that's made abusers' mates and family members turn a blind eye or "mind their own business" rather than speaking up.

Back in 2013 when All Black Julian Savea was charged with assaulting his former partner (a charge later withdrawn after he completed police diversion and publicly apologised to her) the New Zealand Rugby Union was criticised for its response. At the time Women's Refuge said it was an opportunity for the NZRU to come out and make a strong statement condemning domestic violence. Its failure to do so was seen by many as a lost opportunity.

In contrast, Te Puke Sports have seized the opportunity to say "it's not OK" and they and their supporters are to be commended for that.

Earlier this year Whakarewarewa's premier side donned special Anzac Day jerseys in honour of past club members who fought in World War II.

It's gestures such as these that not only improve the reputation and mana of our national sport, but have the potential to make a real difference in our community.

Nice one.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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