League’s bad boys might just be acting their age, statistics suggest

AS BAD as it gets – and this year has been very bad for the NRL with Rooster Setaimata Sa joining the rap list at the weekend, charged with assault, resisting arrest, failure to leave a licensed premises and malicious damage – elite rugby league players might not be much worse than their peers.Men of footballing age figure prominently in police dispatches any Friday and Saturday night; clearly, few of them are subject to the same level of reporting and scrutiny as professional athletes.And, while the NRL is at great pains to impress upon the young men who play the game they will be exposed publicly when they breach community standards, the regular headlines of player atrocities would seem to suggest the message is not always getting through.But perhaps the NRL is doing as well as can be expected.The Herald , with the assistance of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, has compared the rate at which NRL players are charged with assault, with the prevailing rate for all males aged 18 to 34 in NSW, and the figures suggest they are not so bad after all.Young men at that age are being booked by police and charged with assault at a rate of about 700 per 100,000 each year.In the year to March 31, out of a pool of 400 elite footballers three NRL players – Bronx Goodwin, Joel Thompson and Arana Taumata – were charged with assault, suggesting a rate of 750 per 100,000, only slightly above the NSW figure of 674.3.This year looks like being worse with three players, Sandor Earl, Jake Friend and now Sa already on assault charges with seven months still to run. The rate at which their peers are charged has ranged between 674 and 735 over the past three years.Some of the higher-profile charges – such as Brett Stewart’s sexual assault charge and domestic assault charges against Greg Bird and Greg Inglis – fall into different police statistical categories.The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research notes the data must be interpreted with great caution as the sample size, involving only 400 NRL squad members, is so small. If three players charged reflected the average of their peers, six would double it.NRL chief executive David Gallop said players were well aware the law is the same for them as it is for their peers. The consequences, however, might be public exposure. ”We tell our players that they need to expect scrutiny if they do get in trouble with the police,” he said.”The flip side of the celebration around Hazem El Masri on Sunday is that those who behave badly will be put in the spotlight.”Being a so-called role model might seem unfair at times but if Hazem El Masri is well regarded in the community then those who make mistakes and get in trouble with the police are likely to be held up as the opposite.”Sa’s case has one thing in common with most previous offences for assault: alcohol.”In terms of the statistics, it almost 100 per cent involves alcohol. The opportunity to drink is very limited as a professional footballer but that heightens the risk of over-indulgence and the impact on decision-making that goes with it,” Gallop argued.”It’s unrealistic to think we won’t have issues, and I think the limited opportunity to drink is a factor for our players that might not necessarily arise for young people who are not on such a strict regime.”

Nanjing Night Net

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