Zero-tol­er­ance ap­proach to be ap­plauded

Isis Town and Country - - Sport - Matthew McIn­er­ney Re­porter matthewm­cin­er­ney@apn.com.au

NORTH­ERN Dis­tricts Rugby League should take a bow for the way it han­dled the fall­out from brawl sev­eral weeks ago.

The zero-tol­er­ance ap­proach to vi­o­lence both on and off the field in this case should be ap­plauded, and Avon­dale Tiger Corey Valzan should hap­pily take the 12-month stint on the side­lines.

Es­pe­cially when you con­sider one of three spec­ta­tors in­volved in the in­ci­dent was banned for three years.

It is no se­cret re­gional rugby league is strug­gling.

De­spite the in­clu­sion of Bur­nett Heads Cut­ters to the NDRL and the read­mis­sion of Waves Tigers to Bund­aberg Rugby League’s A-grade com­pe­ti­tion, there is cause for con­cern about the fu­ture of lo­cal league.

Scenes like those seen on April 12 in the Avon­dale-Bur­nett Heads game have no place in any sport, and is a ma­jor set­back for hard-work­ing com­mit­tees who spend a lot of time try­ing to plan the sport’s fu­ture.

A lot has been writ­ten in so­cial me­dia cir­cles, although the NDRL clubs’ in­sis­tence to strictly ad­here to and en­force codes of con­duct in the time since should be ap­plauded.

The ef­fect of images like those above have a sense of im­me­di­acy: one look at an im­age or hear­ing sto­ries about what hap­pened can in­stantly turn peo­ple off at­tend­ing games.

While play­ers, coaches and of­fi­cials have to en­sure the scene is never re­peated, there is a larger is­sue that could un­der­mine NDRL and BRL’s ef­forts more than any vi­o­lent in­ci­dent could. Ju­niors. Specif­i­cally, the lack of young boys and girls opt­ing to lace up the boots and hit the field. Rugby league prided it­self on be­ing the work­ing-class game for decades, and as such did not have to put too much an em­pha­sis on ju­nior re­cruit­ment.

At­ti­tudes to­wards sport changed with the times, but as tech­nol­ogy evolved to give peo­ple more mo­bil­ity, rugby league’s mind­set did not change, and now it has to rad­i­cally change to sur­vive in the long-term.

League is no dif­fer­ent to other sports in that it faces an up­hill battle to not only con­vince young peo­ple to play but to at­tract adults and par­ents to vol­un­teer their time to help run clubs..

Childers Devils al­most folded in the off-sea­son due to both a lack of vol­un­teers to run the club, and a lack of num­bers across most di­vi­sions.

So­lu­tions are more elu­sive than Johnathan Thurston at his bril­liant best, but it will take a rad­i­cal ap­proach to turn the for­tunes around.

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