UPDATE: The Australian Rugby League Commission has just voted to ban Robert Lui for the remainder of the season. Isaac Gordon will be banned until week 10 of the competition.
“The Cowboys and Sharks have joined the ARLC in making a clear statement about the need to prevent violence against women,” ARL Commission chief executive David Gallop said.
“…there is a need to send a strong message to the community and, as the first sport to make such an emphatic statement, we would encourage others to follow rugby league’s lead in the future.”
Here’s what we originally wrote today:
The National Rugby League (NRL) would prefer we all forgot it still has two high profile players on its books who physically assaulted their girlfriends. They’re signed. They have clubs. The NRL won’t sack them.
Radio broadcaster and avid footy fan Paul Murray originally wrote about the ridiculous state of affairs on Mamamia when he detailed the crimes for which both men, Robert Lui (now signed to the Cowboys) and Isaac Gordon (who is signed to Cronulla Sharks).
Robert came home after Mad Monday celebrations and kicked, headbutted and dragged his girlfriend by the hair. Charming.
Isaac came home one morning – at 7am – and verbally abused his pregnant girlfriend before pushing her head against the wall and biting her.
While the NRL has moved like molasses on the subject, the public have not.
A Change.org petition has grown to more than 20,000 signatures and Paul Murray, who kick-started it all, says the NRL is having trouble sweeping the reaction under the carpet.
“The response, since I wrote that first article on Mamamia, has been phenomenal,” he said (you can read that article here)
“There has been a football stadium of fans, actual fans of the game, come back to me on calls to the radio, on comments to your site, all of them saying clearly how much they love their game but how they love the women in their lives even more.
“The reason something needs to happen is so the wider community understands beyond doubt this is not acceptable.
“The NRL has gone through the seven stages of denial, it seems. First it outright ignored the reaction from fans and myself as just a bloke ranting on radio, then its response took on a threatening tone, then a passive-aggressive one … but once I went on Sunrise on Saturday the petition jumped 6000 signatures in one hit and the NRL has since issued a statement. A statement that leaves them a lot of wriggle room, if I’m honest.”
Murray said it seemed to be the preferred position of the NRL that players convicted of domestic violence be banned from the game for 12 months … but that any action would ignore the plight of Robert Lui and Isaac Gordon.
“It looks like they want to draw a line in the sand from this point onward and have that penalty apply to future players if they beat their partners or something similar,” he said.
Here’s the statement Paul received:
“The NRL respects the fact that people feel strongly about this.
People also need to remember that neither of these players are currently playing and they are not doing so for the reason that the club and the NRL have made it clear that they can’t play.
There are complex personal issues to consider in both cases involving the players and their partners and the very serious questions of rehabilitation.
There is also the clear need to send a message of deterrence.
We are looking at all of those aspects before determining when and if it would be possible for the players to resume playing.
In any event the players are suspended and will be for a significant period.”
So what’s left to do? Paul says people need to write letters, call the footy shows, sign the petition, let sponsors know they are unhappy.
“The NRL needs to move quicker. Isaac Gordon was found guilty in January … why hasn’t this been resolved?”
Have you been following the controversy? What do you think? Should the players be banned and, if so, for how long?
– Sign the petition here.