back to top
Sunday, May 19, 2024
17.8 C
Sydney

Monica Doumit: The distraction that should be called a blessing

Most read

Serious questions continue to mount around professional sport’s values regarding life, children, marriage and family.
Serious questions continue to mount around professional sport’s values regarding life, children, marriage and family.

Sport is glamourised everywhere in the media. Yet serious questions continue to mount around professional sport’s values regarding life, children, marriage and family

Do you know what a WAG is?

The acronym will often appear in the social pages of print and online newspapers to refer to the “wives and girlfriends” of sporting stars, particularly footballers.

While there are probably a thousand WAGs out there at any one time amongst the various football codes and grades, the focus is always on the glamour couples who walk the red carpet at the Brownlows or the Dally Ms.

- Advertisement -

These images, like those of players lifting their young children on their shoulders at the conclusion of finals matches indicate a very family-friendly environment for players and their loved ones.

While this might be the case for the elite players, the award winners and the finals victors, a strong, anti-family bias has been alleged when it comes to new recruits, especially those from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background.

The Cultural Safety Review of Past and Present Indigenous Players and Staff of the Hawthorn Football Club report, leaked to media last week, contains some serious claims about young, Indigenous players being pressured to cut all ties with girlfriends who became pregnant, or to minimise contact with them to very short visits during the playing season.

“Those accused have denied all these allegations, and it is important to note that none of them were interviewed by those compiling the report, nor have they been provided with a copy of it in full.”

In addition to abortion coercion, these former players allege that their SIM cards were removed from their mobile phones so they could not be contacted by family.

This all happened within the first five years of them being recruited to the club, with the reason for the separation apparently that a baby would be a distraction from their training and playing.

These accounts are in stark contradiction to the perceived glamourous life of a football WAG.

Those accused have denied all these allegations, and it is important to note that none of them were interviewed by those compiling the report, nor have they been provided with a copy of it in full.

Given the gravity of the accusations, it is alarming and unjust that the report was given to the media before those named in it were given a chance to respond to these serious claims.

The report is part of the process of investigation, but it is not by any means complete, because it has only sought input from half of those involved.

How trustworthy now are professional sport’s priorities? Has winning at all costs actually obliterated what’s most important in life?
How trustworthy now are professional sport’s priorities? Has winning at all costs actually obliterated what’s most important in life?

A full investigation needs to occur promptly, as a matter of justice to those named in the report, and also to uncover the extent of the culture problem.

My fear is that the behaviours spoken about in the report may not just be directed at Indigenous players trying to launch their career, but a broader – formal or informal – policy in more clubs and in more codes.

Consider the stories that emerged five years ago in the NRL.

Then-Panthers and now-Parramatta player Bryce Cartwright paid his former girlfriend $50,000 to have an abortion, with the exchange sealed with a written contract.

The woman, known only as Miss X, said that a club representative told her that it wasn’t personal, but rather a business thing, more about rugby league than anything else. In the same week, a story appeared about another NRL WAG, Jaya Taki, being coerced into an abortion she did not want by then-boyfriend Tim Simona.

While there were no allegations at the time (or since) that these were club policies, they were certainly not seen as problematic. Recall Panthers boss Phil Gould defending the abortion payment made by Cartwright, saying: “I’m satisfied in this respect that Bryce did as well as any young man could in the situation.”

“Eels coach Brad Arthur reportedly told him to skip the game … but Moses chose to stay, a move that was hailed as ‘selfless’ and a ‘great sacrifice’.”

There’s even the subtle pressure that comes in the form of congratulating players for placing the “family” of the team above their own biological family.

Take Parramatta halfback Mitchell Moses as an example, who missed the birth of his first child so that he could play against the Cowboys in the preliminary finals.

Eels coach Brad Arthur reportedly told him to skip the game and head back home to be with his girlfriend and new daughter, but Moses chose to stay, a move that was hailed as “selfless” and a “great sacrifice.”

Just days later, Bailey Paris Toleafoa, the girlfriend of Panthers star Jarome Luai, had labour induced so that the birth of the couple’s third child would not clash with the grand final.

I think I have said it before in a different context, but club officials in sports that are usually plagued by sex, alcohol, drug and violence scandals should kneel down and thank God when they encounter a young man who is identified as having his family as a “distraction.”

Would they all be so distracted.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -