Paul Lewis: League royalty prefers the gutter

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Mitchell Pearce. Photo / Getty Images.
Mitchell Pearce. Photo / Getty Images.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Mitchell Pearce simulated-sex-with-a-dog incident is that, as a teenager, he was present when his sister was molested in a drunken episode involving then Panthers captain Craig Gower.

Pearce's sister Tatum, then 18, said in a report done for the Panthers board that Gower grabbed her crotch at a charity golf event in 2005.

Mitchell and Tatum are children of Australian rugby league royalty Wayne Pearce, the best-and-fairest force behind the success of Balmain and the New South Wales Origin side in the 1980s. Swimming legend Dawn Fraser has said she comforted an upset Pearce after his daughter was manhandled.

Gower was never charged, though he was fined A$100,000 ($109,000) by the NRL; the board cleared him of other allegations, including throwing a knife, the pursuit of Mitchell with a beer bottle, running round naked and crashing a golf cart.

Mitchell Pearce had approached a group of people with Gower, telling them to control him. Gower then allegedly behaved menacingly while holding a beer bottle.

You'd think, wouldn't you, being exposed to his sister being groped by a league player with a history of alcohol-related incidents might have taught Mitchell Pearce drink and caveman attitudes to women are not good companions.

Yet there was controversy over his actions involving a woman in a nightclub in 2014; in this week's incident, he forced a kiss on a woman, who accused him of urinating on her couch, before turning his attention to the dog with which he said he wanted to have sex before simulating same.

Poor old rugby league, poor old NRL, poor old representatives of Australian manhood who seem to think poor behaviour to women is just part of life. It calls to mind the response by then NRL boss David Gallop in 2008 after another NRL booze-related controversy suggested efforts to curb such things weren't working: "You can't say something's not working just because you continue to have incidents." Actually, mmm, yes, you can.

To be fair to the NRL, they are working harder on that front - but when a member of one of league's first families is involved, you wonder if the problem doesn't go deeper than just blokes unable to grasp the concept of social media, some with consciences so small you could hide them under an ant's foot, a whopping sense of entitlement and a riches-to-IQ ratio seriously out of whack.

It sometimes seems endemic to Australia; AFL players are often just as bad and it can appear there is a whole continent of blokes who regard sheilas as in the old joke: What is an Australian's perfect woman? She's short and with a flat head so you've got somewhere to put your beer.

British league players don't seem to get into the same sort of strife (though that might be an accident of geography and the sport's relatively minor status so we simply hear less). New Zealand rugby and league players are not immune but generally don't seem to offend to anywhere near the same degree when it comes to women. Maybe the closest comparison is with British football - with its truckloads of drink-related misbehaviour and mistreatment of women.

So it can't just be an Aussie problem. It probably comes down to deficient blokes unable to grow up in the artificial bubble they inhabit.

Anyone who has been around top sportsmen also knows not all women are victims; some behave badly, sometimes encouraging the very thing footballers are later pilloried for.

Even acknowledging a possible drink problem, you wonder how someone like Pearce didn't learn from the Gower incident or the many social media disgracings of boozed players or from Joel Monaghan's 2010 lewd act with a dog which resulted in him shipping his league career off to Britain. Do the NRL now need to set up a behaviour unit to protect dogs?

Some fans will trumpet the usual lameness: it's just young blokes having fun and the media beating it up, and, the most revealing of all, no one would be offended if some scumbag hadn't taken the video.

That's it, of course; it's the messenger's fault. Getting trolleyed, browbeating a woman for a kiss, allegedly inventing the couch urinal and propositioning a poodle are all just part of a good night out and don't relate at all to any deeper concerns ...

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