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Herald on Sunday editorial: Training sporting boys to be good men

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Young players currently in Autex House learn how to cook, clean and tidy up as well as washing and ironing their own clothes. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Young players currently in Autex House learn how to cook, clean and tidy up as well as washing and ironing their own clothes. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Sports stars are no stranger to off-field controversy. Barely a week seems to pass without a player from one code or another hitting the headlines on the front pages rather than the back. Sometimes drunk, often uncouth and occasionally far worse.

READ MORE: Young league guns learn rules in the house of the rising sons

Only the most pious would expect our sports heroes to be paragons of virtue. And whether they should be considered role models for society - and in particular for an impressionable younger generation that looks up to them - is deeply questionable.

But what is without question is they are typically young men from a variety of different backgrounds thrust into the spotlight, often with equal doses of cash and naivety.

Should we be so surprised when some of them go off the rails? We're quick to criticise a justice system perceived as going too lightly on them to avoid interrupting a flourishing career. That system is one of punishment but also one of prevention. And wouldn't it be better if as a society we could focus on prevention before they end up before the courts?

That, in part at least, is the theory behind the Warriors innovative Autex House project - a home away from home created for some of the NRL club's most promising young players.

Warriors chief executive Jim Doyle imported the idea after he introduced a similar scheme while in Sydney last season.

As he says in today's feature, he has seen too many youngsters wreck promising careers by going off the rails.

The six young men currently in Autex House learn how to cook, clean and tidy up as well as washing and ironing their own clothes. There's a house rulebook and a strict curfew.

It may sound common sense but some youngsters come into sport from a background where they might be sharing bedrooms with siblings, eating all the wrong stuff and not getting enough sleep.

Of course, this isn't pure altruism. Clubs in the NRL are in business and the home life of some promising youngsters can put a club's investment at risk. But that should in no way take away from a scheme showing enormous promise.

Consider 20-year-old Junior Pauga from Samoa. He lost his father four years ago and was "in a pretty dark place". Today, he has a part-time community job with the Warriors and is studying to be a personal trainer, as well as pursuing his dream of a league career.

This project might not turn out six NRL stars but it should help turn out six good men.

If such a project can prove a success - and be extended to other codes - we will all benefit from that.

- Herald on Sunday

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