Rugby League fans are becoming increasingly frustrated by off-field scandals and want tougher penalties for offending players.
Despite this, fans are staying loyal and supporting their teams, with club membership numbers higher than ever.
This year the NRL has dealt with salary cap breaches, players charged with drug possession and misuse, and now allegations of match-fixing.
Daniel Hewes, an administrator for the Manly Sea Eagles supporter group The Silvertails, believes fans have had enough. “The players need to focus on playing football and there needs to be harsher penalties handed down to players and clubs who bring the game into disrepute,” he said.
Rocco Luca, digital editor of Rugby League Week, wants to see harsher penalties to deter players from acting up.
“It’s becoming an absolute joke, there’s no other way to put it,” Mr Luca told The Newsroom. “It’s time harsher penalties were put in place to deter players from bringing the game into disrepute. The fans are loyal and, at the end of the day, they don’t deserve the turmoil their clubs are being put through by players.”
Todd Greenberg, CEO of the NRL, recently assured the fans there would be serious consequences for anyone found guilty in the latest match-fixing scandal.
“I want all of our fans and our players and everyone in rugby league to hear me very directly today,” he told a press conference. “If – and it remains an if – any allegation of match fixing is proven against any person, whether a player or an official, they will face the harshest possible penalties.
“This is a threat that exists for all sport in this country and globally. The response from the NRL will be very clear. If any allegations are proven, then we will ban anyone found guilty for life.”
Earlier this year star player Mitchell Pearce attended a rehabilitation facility for alcohol abuse after a video of his drunken behaviour was circulated by the media and online. But fans of the game, such as Paul McNamara, felt the punishment wasn’t harsh enough.
“The players are a protected species and will surely reoffend,” he told The Newsroom. “The penalty handed to players and clubs does not even come close to reflecting the severity of their actions [bringing] the game into disrepute.”
Another NRL supporter, Matt Gould, said players are letting the game and supporters down: “For God’s sake pull your bloody socks up and have pride in your team colours.
“It looks ridiculous and it’s a kick in the face for your team, the emblem in which you play for, and your supporters”. – Paul Burns
Photo of Parramatta fans from Jason Ilagan’s Flick photostream.