On the same day Kieran Loverdidge was having his sentence doubled (to 10 years) for the one punch murder of Thomas Kelly, some rugby league players were talking up the idea of being allowed to once again punch each other on the field.
It’s a curious and troubling disconnect.
In the lead-up to the final game of Origin, James Tamou was intimating that things could blow up whilst Greg Bird was blaming the no punch edict for the game becoming grubbier.
No doubt there’s a lot more niggle now — designed to provoke an opponent into costly retaliation or annoy without threat of retribution. This underlines the importance of self-discipline and the notion that, whilst we can’t always control what happens to us, we can control our response.
It’s a bit rich, however, for players to be blaming the ban on punching when it’s the players themselves who are engaging in the behaviour.
Referees are missing too much of this rubbish but players have no business taking the law into their own hands.
Indeed, that’s one of the reasons the blanket ban was belatedly brought in. Players, thinking they were wronged (and sometimes just for the hell of it), were belting opponents.
Some of these blokes still hold the view that punching hurts nobody. Fact is, players have been killed and careers ended… by one punch.
More widely, courts have long held that sports fields provide no sanction from laws that operate across general society.
Players accept the potential for injury received in the playing of the sport but NOT from illegal activities they are entitled not to anticipate. Like being king hit.
At a time when rugby league continues to receive bad publicity on a consistent basis, those with a duty of care to the game and its players need to do more to educate the dinosaurs (and those too thick to understand) that the times really have changed and that some actions, with good reason, are now off the table.
Society has made a stand against one punch violence and sport has no choice but to follow suit.
You’d like to think they would do so willingly.