Jarryd Hayne Pre-season Controversy that 2018 Telstra NRL does not need

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 23: The Provan Summons Trophy is seen on stage during the 2017 NRL Season Launch at Martin Place on February 23, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

With the National Rugby League (NRL) competition about to begin in less than 50 days, yet another controversy is shading the build-up. News out of the United States that Jarryd Hayne is embroiled in ‘allegations’ of rape, is the preseason controversy the 2018 Telstra NRL Premiership does not need.

And while that is still in the US court system, it is unwanted news that the NRL and the newly re-signed Parramatta Eels player did not need. It continues a trend prior to many of the last few seasons. Controversy, and indifferent actions from players, have constantly been of distraction before the impending season launch.

PreSeason Controversy 2018 Telstra NRL Does Not Need

Not to single out Hayne but issues similar or worse than this are too often clouding the positives built-up by the sport. In particular, those that have been earned since the successful Rugby League World Cup. If the 2018 Telstra NRL Premiership season wanted to begin with a positive feeling, side issues are something it ‘does not need’.

Australia [both men’s and women’s winners] is at the apex of the game–and everyone of the 16 teams on the roster would have had ambitions to begin the New Year on a positive. Something that any organization would ask for–but it seems to be a task that the NRL have found hard to accomplish, with all too many external distractions (like this).

The 2018 Telstra NRL Premiership deserves better.

Media Attention Drawn to Controversy

But all too often the media attention is drawn elsewhere. In recent memory, drunken antics, late night altercations and players suddenly switching codes has upset the concentration of both fans and stakeholders.

Media is all too often drawn to controversy and over the course of 2017 much had been made of the TMO bunker, salary caps and/or the Integrity Unit investigations. The sport is in need of positives. Some thought the positive feeling of the RLWC would carry through the preseason.

What we frequently see however, is in January and February, news can sometimes overshadow the season build-up. Last Word on Rugby; like any other sports fan, believes the game is the store front. The action on the field is what fans wait for but during the preseason pause in play, it is sometimes secondary.

Stories That Take the Focus ‘off the League’

2018 – Jarryd Hayne rape allegations surface, from his short term with the San Francisco 49’ers NFL team

2017 – Tim Simona involved in a gambling crackdown (Kieran Foran is also monitored, due to implications of problem gambling.

2016 – Mitchell Pearce is embroiled in controversy when a video leaks onto social media, of him simulating a sex act on a dog

2015 – the NRL steps in, after the Gold Coast Titans organization is rocked when five players were implicated in a drugs scandal, the Titans are forced into voluntary administration by the governing body

While stories can be singled out, it is the regular pattern and the inability of the NRL to look forward to the January-February period, without also having to arm themselves for trouble. Even planned marketing strategies have been affected.

Mitchell Pearce speaks to the media during a press conference held in Surry Hills on January 29, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Pearce was withdrawn from any involvement in the 2016 season launch, as were Benji Marchall–after an altercation with a fan in 2011–and names like Daly Cherry-Evans and Paul Gallen have been affected. And it is the ill-timed news items that the public recall.

2018 Telstra NRL Season Must Return Focus onto Game

Of course, not every fan of rugby league will focus on the ‘bad news’ stories. Inevitably, the players will complete the tough schedule of preseason training. Then, ultimately, the on-field action will take center stage.

Many cannot wait for that moment. Thursday March 8th cannot come soon enough–and administrators may feel the same. They will be wary of any front page stories that ‘still could’ hold down the positives achieved in 2017.

And in March, the results can then prove to the doubters, that the 2018 Telstra NRL is still the leading rugby league competition, in the world. And for ‘all the right reasons’ it will hold the focus of stakeholders and media outlets.

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