opinion

The horrific allegations against Jarryd Hayne don't even scratch the surface.

 

Jack de Belin was this week charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman in Wollongong.

The woman claims she was outside a night club and was unable to order an Uber.

Along with 27-year-old de Belin and a second man, the woman took a taxi, which she understood would be going to another nightclub.

Instead, the taxi took them to a unit at 1:30am, where both men said they needed to get changed.

She asked to use the bathroom, and as she came out, the woman says she was assaulted.

De Belin’s partner is 20 weeks pregnant with their first child.

Then there’s Dylan Walker.

The 27-year-old has been charged with common assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm, after emergency services were called to his home in Dee Why on December 6.

His partner, Alexandra Ivkovic, suffered cuts to her shoulder, legs and feet, after an alleged argument over a video game.

It was reported that Walker pulled her hair causing her to fall backwards, as his fiance – who gave birth to their son in July of this year – attempted to flee the home.

Ivkovic, 24, has withdrawn her statement, but police say there is at least one independent witness who saw what unfolded.

Then there’s Liam Coleman and Zane Musgrove, who this month were charged with a number of offences after a night out at the Coogee Bay Hotel.

A 22-year-old woman reported an alleged indecent assault to security on the premises before reporting it to the police.

The two men have been charged with an act of indecency, aggravated indecent assault – offender in company and common assault.

Jack de Belin, Dylan Walker, Liam Coleman and Zane Musgrove all play NRL.

And they’re only the charges – all in relation to violence against women – laid in the month of December.

Shall I mention Jarryd Hayne, who is facing a possible 20-year jail sentence, after an alleged aggravated sexual assault against a 27-year-old woman who says she suffered injuries to her genitals after Hayne bit her?

Or should I mention Matthew Lodge, who infamously harassed a woman telling her, “tonight’s the night you’re going to die” before beating and terrorising a couple and their nine-year-old son during a home invasion?

If this were any other demographic in the country; ‘African gangs’, Muslims, refugees, our Indigenous population, then we would be in a hysterical state of moral panic.

Prime Ministers would be making speeches. Policy would be reconsidered. We’d be clutching our pearls and locking our doors.

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But NRL players can do what they like.

And they know it.

A tweet by Sky News reporter Charlotte Mortlock went viral on Thursday night, after she wrote that in only a fortnight, she’s covered five stories where NRL players have been charged with assaulting women.

Five.

These men, whether they like it or not, are positioned as national heroes.

They stare down at little boys and little girls, from posters Blu-tacked to their wall. They run onto the field, welcoming the applause of young people, who want nothing more than to grow up one day and be just like them.

They sign autographs and accept trophies and sponsorship deals and speak at schools and sit on television panels and likely get paid more than you or I, because these men are meant to be role models.

But they’re not been keeping up their end of the deal.

A man who hits his girlfriend should not be known for what he can do with a football.

Women are worth more than that.

The NRL has launched a ‘Power for Change’ campaign to work alongside their Voice of Violence program, providing a workshop for more than 50 teenage players from the Western suburbs.

But what does that seriously mean in the same week that Lodge – guilty of an incident that an NRL adviser called “one of the most disturbing cases I’ve ever reviewed,” – had his contract with the Brisbane Broncos extended by two years?

Not a whole lot.

Violence against women cannot be relegated to a mere footnote in a long and successful sporting career.

We ought to hold our heroes to higher standards.

Or forgo calling them heroes at all.

Mamamia reached out to NRL for comment but had not heard back at the time of publication. 

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