I know about the sex scandals, but can we please get back to the game?

The footy starts this weekend and I’ll be watching. Despite everything. Many a fan has aired their disappointment over an off-season that was particularly off.

The NRL and its clubs have lost $10 million in sponsorship following recent sex scandals and cases of violence. Now they wait to see how many fans they will lose as well.

I’m a Dragons fan but I didn’t know who Jack de Belin was. I do now.Credit:AAP

Reading comments on various stories in the past few months, there seems to be a call to arms for fans to boycott games, to turn off the television when clubs which have been involved are playing, for fans to make their protest a vocal and deliberate one.

Me, I just want the first whistle to blow, and for the game to get on with it.

Mary Konstantopoulos, a lawyer and the founder of Ladies Who League, a community of women who are passionate about sport, feels the same way.

“I hope that with its commencement we can turn our attention to the game rather than the happenings of the most distressing, damaging and scandalous off-season our code has ever faced,” she wrote earlier in March.

She condemned the players’ behaviours, but was smart enough to recognise that the problem extends much wider than the football field.

“This is not only a footy problem; it’s part of a much broader conversation we’re having in Australia about feminism, toxic masculinity and consent.

“Rugby league can help change the conversation but the game needs us, as fans, to stick by it, particularly those of us who demand better from the players who represent our clubs and communities.”

This got me to thinking whether I demand anything from the players, as footballers, other than they don’t miss tackles and actually make some breaks. And I don’t think I do.

Don’t get me wrong. I demand more of them as men. As members of society, we all should, but once they take the field I view them as mere characters in a game. I don’t take too much interest in who they are as people once they’ve donned a jersey.

Indeed, I’m a Dragons fan from way back but I had no idea who Jack de Belin was. I do now.

Perhaps this is an age thing. I remember being fully invested, as a child, in players such as Craig Young and Graeme Wynn. Steve Linnane was a family friend. I met Steve Morris once, and still have the photograph to prove it. My late father and I attended the 1985 grand final at the Sydney Cricket Ground to watch men we actually knew lose to Canterbury 7-6. Still one of the best worst days of my life. As a young woman I had terrible crushes on the likes of Nathan Brown, Mark Coyne, Rod Wishart and David Barnhill, Trent Barrett, oh lordy. And I cried red and white tears when Lance Thompson died recently.

But today’s game? Can I name one Dragons player? I flicked to the official website and went through the team list. Gareth Widdop and Ben Hunt were the only backs I recognised. Tariq Sims because I like the way he plays and James Graham, only because I hated him at the Bulldogs. But that was it.

For me, the game has become somewhat homogenised. On and off the field. Twenty-six men, all the same shape and size, half wearing a different jersey, hitting it up one-off for five sets before kicking across field for the corner.

I’m a league tragic but there’s a lot not to like about the game.

But would I stop watching? I went to see Storm Boy over the summer, a quaint, if somewhat underwhelming, little film. It starred Geoffrey Rush, himself at the centre of allegations of sexual harassment (which he has denied), and I was well aware of this before I bought my ticket. But I still wanted to see the movie. Just as I still want to watch the football.

Now let them play.

Source: Read Full Article