There is nothing that grinds the gears of rugby league fans, commentators or journalists more than refereeing consistency - or a lack of it. It is often on show in weekend rugby league matches across the country - all with a common theme surrounding foul language, both deliberate and non-deliberate.
The National Rugby League code of conduct - which applies to all levels of competition - includes the rule 'never engage in disrespectful conduct of any sort including profanity, sledging, obscene gestures, offensive remarks, trash-talking, taunting or other actions that are demeaning to other players, officials or supporters.'
On the surface, it seems like a fair and just rule. Any use of an 'F' and 'C' bomb, no matter the context, would result in an early shower if you were a player, or an early schooner at the pub if you were a spectator.
However, the delivery of any penalty has the potenital to cause inconsistency of impact on the team and the player. This was the case in a recent match played in a NSW regiional competition.
One player was given his marching orders for dissent in the 52nd minute of their 18-14 victory. Problems then arose barely 10 minutes later when the co-coach of the opposing team was also sent for a stint in the naughty corner.
The difference between the two was that the player was done for the day, whereas the co-coach was allowed to return having spent 10 minutes cooling his heels in the sheds. It highlights a considerable lack of consistency. One in, all in. Or so they say.
Don't get me wrong, full-blown swearing is unnecessary and when it leads to less people attending matches in a time where crowds are already dwindling, something has to be done.
Several people expressed their disgust about this situation. In fact, four women who attended that match said they won't return as a result of the vulgar language they were subjected to.
We should be encouraging more women to attend rugby league matches. We should be ensuring the local rugby league competition is a setting for families to enjoy.
But in a society that is becoming increasingly over-sanitised, there needs to be a middle ground that everyone can agree on.
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