Violent, Drunk, Pervert or Junkie? Take Your Pick.

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BY SEAN GARRETT

“Hi, my name is Sean and I’m a Rugby League player”.

“Are you really? Then you must be a violent, drunk, steroid using rapist. Please don’t come near me again.”

You’d be surprised how often this has happened to me, and I really struggle to understand why. That is, until, I happen to read the paper or turn on the news to find something has happened in world of the NRL, AFL or professional sport in general that will cause no amount of controversy for the next two or more weeks.

Instantly this controversy will label not just every single professional player as a person who does/has done this world ending atrocity, it labels every other player, from Reserve Grade down to the local pub competition as a perpetrator and just downright universal scumbag.

Great, as if I didn’t have enough trouble trying to meet girls or people in general.

Let’s start with the controversy that is plaguing the NRL and Australian sport in general, which is the ASDSA investigation into performance enhancing drugs in sport. Please don’t assume that because a sports scientist and one or two clubs, who have been accused of using growth hormones and peptides to enhance their player’s performance (and I really stress this point; WITH OR WITHOUT THEIR KNOWLEDGE), that I or any other professional or semi-professional sports player is a user of these substances.

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Just because ASADA says some players allegedly cheat doesn’t mean we all do

It is not on. In fact it’s just downright discriminatory. We all train hard to get the level of performance required to play our said sports, some train more than others and get better results and these results show. It’s unfair to assume that because someone may have a bit more muscle that they are a junkie who uses steroids and a cocktail of peptides and drugs to achieve their physique.

People who make such assumptions do infuriate me – it’s not like I’ve worked hard for three fucking years to get these results (this is a post for another time.).

That’s just one excuse I’ve encountered. Here’s another:

If you recall a few years ago there were a couple of scandals involving alleged sexual assaults. I’m not going into the details of any of these cases; but over the course of these years it was assumed that once again, every single rugby league player, whether they were registered professionals or local competition players, were serial rapists that have horrible rape dungeons, cheat on their partners and that no-one should interact with them at all.

Such stereotypes affect hardworking players like me and my mates, and often we get judged for what some other dirtbag has done, which is unwarranted and unfair. Many of my friends are either in long-term relationships or married with young children.

Then of course there is this classic “Rugby League is a dangerous contact sport and everyone who plays it is a violent person who goes around drinking in excess every chance they get and always getting into fights”.

I’m putting this to rest now:

  • Yes, Rugby League IS a contact sport, a very tough one at that. Just because we play said sport does not mean we are violent in real life and go around starting fights.
  • No, we don’t go out at every chance we get. We like a drink after a game with our mates and sometimes we have big nights, just like everyone else who has friends. We all have jobs and other, more important things to do with our lives other than just going out and getting blind.

So next time you meet someone who says they play a sport that has been in the news for a negative reason, don’t just instantly guess that they are the person that has allegedly done said horrible thing. Take that extra second to actually get to know them.

You might even surprise yourself.

Sean is a final year Computer Science student at the University of Wollongong. If he’s not out training or playing footy you will probably find him stalking the Internet via his Twitter page.

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