What do you think when I mention the year 1907? Maybe it is a horse and carriage or telegrams or is it rugby league? This was the year that rugby league was introduced to Australia and it has grown in leaps and bounds since this day. As time has moved on from 1907, the game became more popular Australia wide, new teams have joined the league, the locations in which league is played have grown and social media has changed dramatically. From the beginning of rugby league until now, the game has never been short of a scandal here or there. The difference to the public knowing about scandals, and how much they know, is social media. As time has progressed since the day this great game was introduced social media has expanded and technology changed.
Once upon a time, all the sport news that was available was printed in the local newspaper. This then grew to also be reported on television and today we find it on both these platforms as well as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a multitude of other media. Arguably, the National Ruby League (NRL) as it is now known, thrives on social media as it is one of their biggest platforms to engage with sports fanatics on a worldwide scale. However, it could be considered that social media must be one of the biggest downfalls to the game. In a day and age where just about everyone has a smartphone or a tablet or a camera in their hand, there is minimal opportunity for NRL players to make poor choices without someone having footage of the incident.
For example, last week Australia played New Zealand in Canberra. Both teams are made
up of a selection of players from the 16 club teams that play in the NRL Premiership. Most of these players are elite athletes who do a lot to represent their club in a positive way resulting in large fan bases. Two players, whom I and many others would consider as responsible and trouble free men, who are usually in the spotlight for the right reason, were not this time. They were videoed by a member of the public exchanging cash for drugs at 5am in the morning. As you would expect, this video was shared via all social media platforms and the game was again in disrepute. Formal apologies, club sanctions and fines were handed down to the men and the question of drug use within the game was the topic of conversation yet again. All of which occurred in the twenty four hours immediately following the incident.
This got me thinking, was drug use an issue in the past before social media became a way of life? Do poor player choices appear to be more prevalent now that social media is there to catch them out? The answer, only those who may have been involved know. The lack of social media back in the day means rugby league had opportunities to cover such behaviour up in an effort to prevent the game being brought in to disrepute. And if you don’t have to disclose information such as that, why would you make it public knowledge? Whilst there is plenty of speculation about which player did what, there are virtually no videos or photos to back up those claims from the early days. So in a day and age where social media allows players to be so exposed, negativity will always fall on the game whilst these role models continue to make poor choices.
Do you think the powers of social media have negatively tarnished the game?