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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Cruel competition

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MacKillop Rugby League Team hits the pitch. Photo: CSNSW Sport
MacKillop Rugby League Team hits the pitch. Photo: CSNSW Sport

Catholic values including resilience, fairness, empathy and justice will be lost on a generation of young children due to new rules being introduced to junior rugby league in 2023.

In the biggest shake-up the game has seen, NSW Rugby League is abolishing competitive games until the age of 13.

Under the new structure, there will be no scoring, no winners or losers and no grand finals.

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In addition, players will be banned from participating in tackle rugby league until midway through the under 7s season.

Aimed at increasing junior participation numbers and protecting children from injuries, sporting experts believe the new strategy will have disastrous results.

Generations of rugby league players have come from Catholic schools; the game is in the top two sports played around the country.

Angry parents, coaches and players have this week taken to social media to sign petitions against the revised rules and express their outrage.

“Winning and losing teaches valuable life lessons. Children need to understand that life has its ups and downs and to appreciate the highs, you need to experience the lows,” one parent posted.

“winning and losing teaches valuable life lessons. children need to understand that life has its ups and downs and to appreciate the highs, you need to experience the lows”

“Kids love the competition. As soon as they learn how to count, they know if they’ve lost or won,” posted another.

“This is absolutely ridiculous!!! Kids need to learn how to lose and how to respond to losing!! They won’t go through life winning every time,” another added.

Catholic Schools NSW Director Sport Services, Robert Rush, said many of the Catholic social values taught in schools may not be reflected in the new rules.

He said that while he supported measures to grow participation in sport he wanted this to be balanced by allowing young players to gain exposure to the qualities traditionally learnt through rugby league including winning and losing, humility, fairness and discipline.

“I do not want Catholic values taught by playing rugby league from a young age to dissipate,” he said. “Sport in essence is an opportunity to teach kids to be humble in victory as well as to teach you how to lose.

“No matter what you are doing, whether it’s debating or league, there is always winners and losers … and if the decision goes against you, you have to accept it.”

“You could be the much better team and you deserve to win but the ball actually bounces the wrong way and the other team wins and it just wasn’t your day – but you learn to accept this is part of life and in life you don’t always win and have to accept it.

“And if you don’t win? There’s always next week and, if it’s the grand final, there’s next year.

“When you win you are taught to be magnanimous and humble. We’ve raised our kids in the Catholic ethos which does include the sporting field.

“It’s a very tactile way of showing children to be humble and show those Catholic values and then when you do lose, you don’t spit the dummy, you look at why you lost. Maybe you were unlucky or you didn’t train hard enough.

“it’s a very tactile way of showing children to be humble and show those catholic values and when you do lose, you don’t spit the dummy, you look at why you lost. maybe you were unlucky or you didn’t train hard enough”.

“One of the junior sporting clubs in my area has the motto ‘Play to win but learn to lose’ and that really is what it’s all about.”

Peter Wade, principal of Patrician Brothers’ College, Fairfield, winners of this year’s NRL Schoolboys Cup, said the life lessons taught by sport, including rugby league, are undeniable.

The game teaches students camaraderie, team spirit, discipline and to always do your best, he said.

“We are a comprehensive high school which loves its sport and recognise not only the Catholic but life lessons taught by it,” he said.

“No matter what you are doing, whether it’s debating or league, there is always winners and losers. However what we teach is sportsmanship and if the decision goes against you, you have to accept it.”

Catholic Schools NSW Senior Sport Officer Peter Giles has coached junior rugby league for more than 45 years’ and said he worries kids are going to start asking ‘why are we playing, what’s the point without a result?’

“My big question is about unintended consequences: will they still be playing rugby league because they can go to soccer, or basketball or rugby union as all these sports offer competitions where they keep score,” he said.

“The Catholic ethos that is taught in rugby league I fear could be lost through this, including winning graciously and losing the same way, teamwork, tenacity and communication.

“I wonder where this is heading: are we going to stop giving little Johnny marks in class because he only got a 78 when his mate got 92, what is that teaching them?”

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