Why Would Anyone Let Their Kid Play Rugby League With The Lack Of Role Models?
Another day, another spot fire for the NRL to battle.
The Jarryd Hayne saga continues, lurching from bad to worse. He’s been charged with the aggravated sexual assault of a 26-year-old woman and now allegations have emerged that she was so badly injured she needed medical attention.
This is an almighty fall from grace for the NRL star, who not all that long ago was the subject of one of the most positive PR campaigns in modern sport.
During his time with the San Francisco 49ers the Hayne PR machine was in full swing. Australia’s biggest media outlets were gushing over Hayne, depicting him as a trailblazer and pioneer of Australian sport.
The Daily Telegraph featured him on the front page three times in eleven days, saluting him as ‘The Minto kid who conquered America,’ claiming his was ‘one of Australia’s greatest success stories,’ who had ‘inspired a nation.’ Inside was an eight-page spread dedicated to telling Hayne’s story.
But the PR surrounding Hayne is now beating to a very different tune. In fact, the latest allegations are yet another headache for the NRL, which must be frantically searching through its player ranks to find a scandal-free role model to help sell the game.
Of course there have been several over the years, especially amongst the elder statesmen of the game.
But their respectful, conscientious, hard-working, humble approach to sport and life is too often railroaded by the boorish behaviour of others, lurching the NRL from crisis to crisis and many parents wondering why they’d ever let their kids play the code.
There’s been no shortage of PR disasters for the NRL to deal with.
In truth, the behaviours that reflect role models never stay the same. In fact, they evolve over time to reflect the aspiring values, standards and ideals of society.
What we expected and accepted in days gone by isn’t relevant today. Earlier this year, a study conducted by the Pew Research Centre in the US revealed honesty, kindness and strength top the list of characteristic traits we value most in others.
Not surprisingly, overt masculinity and aggression shown by men were down the bottom.
Yet it seems some athletes are in a time warp, displaying characteristic traits more appropriate, or at least accepted, in a bygone era.
Of course, this is not a problem unique to the NRL or Australia. Hayne’s former NFL club, San Francisco, is no stranger to crisis management, having had to deal with a string of athletes being arrested for a range of misdemeanours including sexual assault, drink driving and a hit and run.
And according to former 49ers general manager Trent Baalke there’s no guessing who’s going to get in trouble next. “There are other times when the character of an individual coming into the NFL was sterling. But they end up being guys who get in trouble," he said.
For scandal-ridden competitions such as the NRL this sort of revelation is a worry, because it speaks to the troubled culture of the sport at the elite level and how it influences the individual athletes.
While the allegations against Hayne are yet to be tested in court, and his innocence or otherwise, determined, questions about player behaviour have implications for the game’s future. Because with every new scandalous headline, parents of young kids are left scratching their heads, wondering why they’d ever let their kids play rugby league.