This article was first written for and published by The Roar.
In the past week alone, there have been two incidents which have clearly demonstrated there are some parts of the Sydney media that are looking to hurt rugby league.
Instead of being part of a movement that supports the game and the work our players are doing on and off the field, some parts of the media go searching for footage that instead chooses to portray our game in a negative light.
The first incident happened almost a week ago, where the Daily Telegraph decided that the Canterbury Bulldogs’ Mad Monday celebrations were worth putting on the front page, with descriptions of wildly inappropriate behaviour which boiled down to a couple of players having too much to drink, taking their clothes off and falling asleep outside a pub.
But the incident wasn’t front page news, particularly given Australia’s current political climate and what is happening on Nauru. The celebration also wasn’t news until the Telegraph decided to get special cameras to obtain the footage and ask punters to send in their Mad Monday photos.
Have we become that obsessed with our sports stars that we need photographs every time they go out in public?
The next incident though was even more troubling. On Channel Seven, there was a report about Wests Tigers players Luke Brooks and Josh Reynolds who had been searched for drugs at an inner-west Sydney venue.
What the report didn’t make especially clear was that the two men were part of a larger group, that the whole group was searched, that tests of this kind are routine in nature and neither Josh or Luke had any further contact with police following the search.
Truth be told, I cannot see the positive value in these sorts of stories. Particularly when I know players like Adam Elliot are doing plenty in the community that does not get any coverage at all.
The media often complain about lack of access to players and that the clubs and players are distrustful of them. Can you blame clubs or players? Personally, I hope the next time the Daily Telegraph asks the Bulldogs for anything, whether it be an interview, player appearance or comment, that the Bulldogs tell the Telegraph to stick it.
But while stories like this do nothing but damage the game and the crisis merchants can stir the pot as much as they like, in the end they will not prevail.
Because when it comes to rugby league, we have an incredible product and the games we saw on the weekend, both in the men’s and women’s competitions, demonstrated that. The fans will always come back to rugby league because of the talent on show each and every week.
The game between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Melbourne Storm was decided by one point. The lead changed five times and the scores were also locked up at 6-6, 18-18, 22-22 and 28-28 with the deadlock only being broken in the final four minutes thanks to a wonky Cameron Munster field goal.
Several players went from hero to zero and then back to hero in this game. Adam Reynolds received a penalty early in the game for being tackled in the air by Josh Addo-Carr. In the next set, Reynolds was sent back to earth in a massive tackle by Felise Kaufusi.
Suliasi Vunivalu decided not to play the whistle and was in an argument with a touch judge when Greg Inglis went over to score for Souths to take the lead. Only moments later, Brodie Croft broke out of a Sam Burgess tackle and kicked ahead to find Vunivalu, who dived over to score just before half-time.
Social media erupted after the game with nothing but positive sentiment towards the two teams and the wonderful game we had just been treated to.
And that was only the first game.
On Saturday, history was made with the first game in the inaugural Women’s Rugby League Premiership. The Warriors surprised us all by beating competition favourites the Roosters. There were some big hits in that game – Isabelle Kelly was smashed in the final two minutes and I’m sure Zahara Temara will be having nightmares about Annetta Nuuausala, who put on her a hit so hard that it was felt throughout the crowd.
The Panthers kept the foot on the Warriors’ throat on Saturday night and James Maloney demonstrated why he is one of the most valuable players in the NRL with his kicking game getting Penrith back into the match, courtesy of a 40-20 when they found themselves trailing early.
The best part is, this finals series is only getting started.
Now six teams remain and the women’s competition continues. Let’s hope that the focus stays on the footy this week. Because when we do that, our game will continue to shine.