8 Mar 2019

Australia Rugby League needs a desperate shakeup - Bidwell

6:29 pm on 8 March 2019

Opinion - Sex tapes and rugby league are becoming unhappy bedfellows.

Tyrone May

Penrith Panthers playmaker Tyrone May has been accused of filming leaked sex tapes of two women. Photo: Photosport

The NRL season starts on 14 March, but who cares who's playing.

Any talk about offseason signings or teams with premiership pretensions have been entirely overshadowed by the ongoing release of sex tapes featuring NRL footballers.

Who's in them, who shot them and who distributed them are among the questions being asked. Not to mention when will it end?

The Penrith Panthers club are at the centre of the most recent revelations, with their executive general manager of rugby league, Phil Gould, saying sex tapes are a societal issue.

Secondary school students, he said, are conditioned to participate in these types of things and tapes featuring Panthers playmaker Tyrone May are merely a reflection of that.

May has joined Bulldogs forward Dylan Napa in being stood down by the NRL, but the issue hardly stops there.

Take this quote from a Sydney newspaper last month, in response to rumours "three current big-name players'' had appeared in another video that was doing the rounds.

"We can't remember what we did on a night out four or five years ago, let alone if someone shot it on their phones. I'm a different person now. I've settled down and got married and have kids,'' one of the players was quoted as saying.

Let's unpack that a little.

First, the societal issue bit. Are you part of a society where group sex, filmed or otherwise, is the norm. So normal in fact that you can't possibly remember an occasion in which you and two workmates were at it?

Are there so many videos of these things circulating in your WhatsApp groups that you can't distinguish one from another?

Belinda Medlyn, a former partner of Gold Coast, West Tigers, New Zealand Warriors and Kiwis player Bodene Thompson, claimed two years ago that group sex was a staple of the NRL.

In fact, Medlyn alleged she and Thompson conceived their child while a Warriors team-mate was watching.

Medlyn went on to say she consented to a foursome with Thompson and two of his clubmates.

"It's about power, fast cash, fit bodies and getting any woman they like,'' Medlyn told a Sydney newspaper.

This is about more than tapes. It's a long way past the perils of smartphones and people's hunger for recognition and a desire to share even their most intimate moments.

It's about a game where big, strong men appear to enjoy having sex in groups.

The various talking heads that make a living through rugby league can all tut tut and say they're shocked by these developments, but they're not.

Included in an NRL offseason littered with shameful moments are five players on sexual assault charges. At some point everyone involved in Australian rugby league has to wake up to the way women are being viewed and treated.

What's so different here? New Zealand has an NRL team, for whom large numbers of Aussies have played, so where's the Warriors' catalogue of off-field atrocities?

How about rugby? Is there something about the culture of that sport that means players don't have sex in groups? Does no-one own or operate a phone? If there are sex tapes, do they just not distribute them among team-mates?

Regrettable or potentially embarrassing incidents have occurred over the years, with the Chiefs rugby team and former Warriors centre Konrad Hurrell coming to mind, but not on the industrial scale they appear to in Australia.

It would be naive to suggest there aren't grubby things going on but, for whatever reason, they don't pop up in the public domain.

Phil Gould has done great things for rugby league. As a player, coach, commentator and administrator, few can match his contribution.

In an age where prominent people often look to distance themselves from the public, Gould is active on platforms such as Twitter, interacting with fans on a daily basis.

Not all of them admire him or the Panthers, but he gives them a fair hearing just the same.

But he's wrong to broaden this sex-tape business. Australian rugby league clubs have a behavioural issue that's not common to the rest of society.

Until they confront that, the game can expect these tapes to keep surfacing.

*Hamish Bidwell is a contributor to Radio New Zealand. He has previously worked at The Northern Advocate, Gisborne Herald, Hawke's Bay Today, The Press, The Dominion Post and Stuff.

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