Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Dana Johannsen: NRL needs to sort out its priorities

Outrage and excessive fine for Packer's wee yet barely a peep over the latest alleged attack on a woman.

Warrior's Russell Packer is tackled by Dragons Matt Coope. Photo / APN
Warrior's Russell Packer is tackled by Dragons Matt Coope. Photo / APN

The excessive fine dished out to Russell Packer this week suggests the NRL has some rather warped priorities when it comes to stamping out offensive behaviour in the game.

Taking a wee on the field is a A$15,000 ($17,975) crime to the NRL head honchos, who moved swiftly to slap Packer with a breach notice for his pre-game whizz on the hallowed turf of Suncorp Stadium.

"This sort of behaviour is completely unacceptable and there is no excuse for it," said Nathan McGuirk, general manager of football operations.

If only the NRL took the same hardline approach to players who commit violent acts against women as they do to those who are caught demonstrating poor toileting practices.

Compare the league bosses' strong rebuke to Packer with their reaction when allegations of assault surfaced against South Sydney Rabbitohs star Ben Te'o. The second-rower has been accused of punching a woman in the face at the home of his former Brisbane Broncos teammate Corey Norman.

Another top name player, Darius Boyd, was also reported to be at the party. Yet there has been no fierce condemnation of the group's actions by the NRL. The bosses at the Rabbitohs meanwhile asked Te'o if he wanted to be stood down. Nobly, he declined.

For a sport that talks an awful lot about engaging women in the game, their reaction has been weak.

The NRL's bosses' hands are tied somewhat while the police investigation is ongoing and they will hide behind the excuse of allowing the legal process to run its course for the time being. But remember, Te'o has never denied hitting the woman - all he has said was that he believed his actions, which left the victim with a broken eye-socket, were appropriate.

Just what damage Packer has done to the game for answering the call of nature is unclear, but the message the NRL is sending sure is - going wees in public is inexcusable, there can, however, be extenuating circumstances when it comes to bashing women.

The fact that the Te'o allegations surfaced during the NRL's annual women in league round, when the players don pink jerseys to honour the mums, sisters, wives and girlfriends who sacrifice so much to allow the men in their lives to play "the greatest game of all", underlined the competition's superficial approach to supporting women. Instead of giving the ladies in the canteen a pat on the back for keeping the pies warm, and celebrating all the mums out there who take their kids to training and wash their muddy jerseys, they had a chance to make a stand against violence to women.

Te'o is just the latest in a long line of ugly incidents involving accusations of assault or sexual violation that have blighted the game in recent years.

Why doesn't the league, instead of staging a round that seems little more than a PR exercise, actually do something to address these issues?

- NZ Herald

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Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Dana has more than a decade's experience in sports journalism, joining the Herald in 2007 following stints with TVNZ and RadioSport. Over that time Dana has covered several major events including the 2011 Netball World Cup in Singapore, 2011 Rugby World Cup, 2012-13 Volvo Ocean Race, and the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco. A multi-award winning journalist, Dana was named New Zealand Sports Journalist of the Year in 2012 after scooping both the news and feature categories at the TP McLean Awards. The previous year she picked up the prize for best news break. She was also an inaugural recipient of the Sir John Wells scholarship at the 2009 NZSJA awards. Dana also writes a weekly sports column for the NZ Herald.

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