An open letter to the NRL 

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To whom it may concern:

The ancient Romans had an important position known as the Censor. Primarily, the role involved taking the census to maintain a list of citizens. There was also a moral component, ensuring that citizens acted in line with community expectations. Punishments were meted out for those who did not comply.

I humbly suggest that the NRL would benefit from such a system. Any person whose mere presence brings the sport into disrepute should be forced out, never to return to the rugby league elite. I’ll get the list started:

You could add Todd Carney and Mitchell Pearce and undoubtedly dozens of others. It would be too depressing to compile a comprehensive list so I’ll leave that for the prospective censors to debate. I will suggest that urinating in your own mouth shows a disturbing lack of judgement and impulse control, not compatible with a person whose job description is representing a community and sponsors on the football field.

While “everyone deserves a second chance” is a core tenet of our justice system, I do not believe it is applicable to the NRL.

Firstly, unlike rejoining society, a position on a NRL roster is zero-sum. For every scumbag getting a second chance, someone else misses out on their first chance. Lodge’s second chance came when he avoided jail and was ‘merely’ hit with a $1.6 million in damages, a debt he is free to ignore while he remains outside of the United States. His second chance should not deny a perhaps less talented forward but all round better person.

Secondly, when a criminal is rehabilitated and returns to society, he is not elevated to a glorified position as a representative of the community and paid handsomely. We may regard Matt Lodge’s $85,000 contract as paltry compared to his colleagues but it is well above the Australian median salary and more than he would earn as a labourer, the only other job he is probably cut out for. That I, as a fan and Broncos member, have to sit through innumerable ads that pay his salary while he represents my hometown is disturbing.

Finally, the National Rugby League should be what we want our society to look like, not what it is. It is a game born of the simple desire to be compensated for one’s labour, inclusive of all irrespective of race, creed or sexuality, and elevating otherwise ordinary men (and increasingly women) to a higher level for a brief time. It should be a game that prioritises sportsmanship and community over money and winning. We want our society to be fair and it is not fair to reward someone who has not atoned for their sins; a year or two in reserve grade and cutting out alcohol is not compatible with the years of soul searching and charity required to make amends for an act of this scale.

It is too much to expect this letter to make a difference. It certainly won’t be the last time a letter like this is needed but I wanted to use my small platform to express my profound disappointment at this situation. That this is not the first time it has happened only makes it worse.

Today, when our leaders regularly make decisions in a vacuum free of the concern as to what the plebeians may think, the outpouring of scorn to the Broncos’ decision to sign Lodge will probably also be ignored. The Roman leadership learned that compromises with the proletariat were necessary for society to function. I hope the sport’s leaders do likewise.

Yours sincerely,