At Last, 11 Reasons To Be Positive About A Deeply Tainted Game
The 13-a-side game is today all about the number 11.
Specifically, it's about a potential 11-year jail term.
That's the cut-off period -- announced today by the Australian Rugby League Commission -- between automatic suspension from playing duties for charged NRL players, and a discretionary call from the NRL CEO.
If the crime a player has been accused of carries a sentence of 11 years or more, then they will be sidelined without recourse. If found innocent, they will of course be welcomed back.
Facing 10 years or under? It's up to the NRL CEO of the day to assess the situation and rule whether you can kit up and play.
This is the right call, and plenty of people in the wider community feel that way.
The NRL's "no-fault stand down" is a win for the welfare of the game -- a phrase that Peter Beattie used numerous times at the announcement.
Because at the end of the day, the NRL, like any popular sport, is something that people feel like they part-own. The modern, slightly sterile term for a fan is "stakeholder". But the term has its place. Fans really do hold a major stake in the game, to the point where it's part of their identity.
That identity feels threatened when fans are watching players who have serious allegations hanging over them. Sponsors -- who along with fans, keep the game afloat -- are no more comfortable.
"We had to be seen by our fans and the community that we were doing something about it," Beattie said of the summer of bad news stories which had sent potential sponsors scurrying.
"Now we’ve done something about it."
Again and again, Beattie stressed that this was not about being prejudicial.
"There will be no judgement whatsoever on any player charged with a serious offense," he said.
"We know that just because you’re charged, doesn’t mean you’ll be found guilty."
As Beattie said repeatedly, there is not a skerrick of judgement on cases like that of Jack de Belin, who faces aggravated sexual assault charges and has now been stood down under the new rules.
There is simply the recognition that NRL players should take a back seat while serious allegations are pending. Such is the lot of those who work in high-profile occupations.
READ MORE: Full Pay, No Play: The NRL's Controversial Fix For Players Facing Criminal Charges
The NRL has acted honourably today. It has not let anyone down. Indeed, it has opened the door to those who were thinking of deserting the code for good.