Sports journalist to NRL CEO: "I will never be silent on domestic violence."

“Imagine if this was your daughter, your niece or a young woman you know. Imagine how livid, how angry you would feel.”






It seems like a depressingly familiar story. A  rugby league player brutally assaulted his girlfriend and was allowed to keep playing.

But in what seems like a less-familiar story, a male sports journalist attempted to interview the NRL CEO about the incident and was banned.

That journalist is Phil “Buzz” Rothfield, and in this pretty impressive open letter to NRL CEO Dave Smith, he takes the issue of domestic violence into his own hands.

And it’s the most excellent example of “manning up” we’ve seen in a long time.

Trigger warning: This post deals with domestic violence in some detail and may be triggering for some readers.


Dear Dave,

I will never, ever be silenced on domestic violence. You can ban me from interviewing you about this story but while rugby league chooses to ignore such appalling behaviour, it is my responsibility to highlight it.

The fact you allowed a South Sydney footballer to continue playing this year after he pleaded guilty to assaulting his girlfriend made me feel sick. That’s why I wrote about it.

A drunken 98kg player threw a woman into a garage door so hard she suffered physical injuries and who knows what psychological scars.

Imagine if this was your daughter, your niece or a young woman you know. Imagine how livid, how angry you would feel.

On Tuesday I put in a request to your media department for an interview on this issue.

domestic violence nrl
NRL CEO Dave Smith refused to talk about the issue. Photo: Renee McKay / Getty Images Sport.

To ask questions why South Sydney’s rising star Kirisome Auva’a had been allowed to continue playing after pleading guilty to assaulting his ex-girlfriend.

NRL ban

The request was rejected. I was told I was banned from interviewing you about Auva’a. You weren’t happy with my recent stories.

Instead you agreed to let another journalist interview you from the Daily Telegraph who supported your recent punishment of Paul Gallen [Gallen was suspended and fined for a social media tirade against the game’s officials]. That’s fine by me.

Denying me an interview stinks of censorship but there will be other stories, other days, other sports.

I can live with your attempt to control the media but I will never hold back while the game turns a blind eye to such an important issue in our society.

“Today I will apply to become an ambassador for White Ribbon Australia to keep up the fight. And I will not be censored.”

You can put females on club boards, you can stage a Women in League round and you can put the White Ribbon Australia logo on the Kangaroos jerseys.

It’s all good publicity but you can never run and hide from such a hideous crime that is domestic violence.

Time for change

In Australia an average of one woman a week is killed by a current or former partner.


Many others are beaten and bashed.

On Tuesday I spoke to the chief executive of White Ribbon Australia Libby Davies. She urged me to continue to highlight the problem and to report passionately on it.

And I will. To hell with your organisation and the petty ban. For six months your integrity unit knew a footballer had viciously assaulted his girlfriend.

You did not even bother to contact her. This poor woman is now nothing but another sad statistic.

You then allowed the footballer to continue playing as if nothing had happened.

He got counselling support from the game, the victim got nothing.

In recent weeks your leadership — or lack of — has come under fire from highly respected men like district court judge Paul Conlon and QC Alan Sullivan.

domestic violence nrl
The Rabbitohs’ Kirisome Auva’a. Photo: Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images.

Many others at the 16 clubs feel the same way.

That the game has a responsibility to take a stand on footballers who assault women. Ban them. Zero tolerance. Full stop. End of story.

This is not a bank or a business. This is rugby league. The people involved are role models.

Today I will apply to become an ambassador for White Ribbon Australia to keep up the fight. And I will not be censored.


This open letter was originally published on The Daily Telegraph and has been republished with full permission. You can read the original story here.

For more information on White Ribbon and its campaign to end violence against women, click here or visit

If you or someone you know are affected by domestic violence, call the Domestic Violence Helpline in 1800 800 098 24 hours, 7 days a week, or click here.