George Burgess of the Rabbitohs makes a break during the round four NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium on March 29, 2013 in Sydney, Australia.
George Burgess of the Rabbitohs makes a break during the round four NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium on March 29, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

Aussie league fans have had enough of the bad behaviour

LAST week I wrote that even though I had not a skerrick of pity for him, James Tamou was possibly harshly treated with his two-match, $50,000 hip-pocket hit for drunk and unlicensed driving.

I also hoped the harsh treatment of Tamou by the newly-established NRL integrity unit would send a strong message to other players that boof-headed behaviour, and bringing the game in to disrepute, would not be tolerated under any circumstances.

Well hello, here we are seven days later and - unbelievably - two more high-profile NRL players are in strife.

And Maroons coach Mal Meninga has made headlines too, although for an extremely trivial indiscretion.

At any time in the game's history, the behaviour of Blake Ferguson and George Burgess would have been totally unacceptable.

But after what has happened in more recent times, and having any comprehension of what is at stake in respect of fines and suspension, their behaviour is implausible.

I honestly cannot recall the number of times I have stood on my soapbox - in print - and criticised the anti-social antics of rugby league players.

It's as though they believe that once they have made it to the top they have a God-given right to flout the law and damage the image of a sport that these days gives them an alarmingly lucrative living.

And every time there is a transgression, and the player concerned is punished, poor old naïve me thinks they will learn a lesson, and so will their mates.

But they don't, and every decent fan and former player is just sick of it.

Josh Dugan is a textbook example.

Even though he didn't break the law the other night, his behaviour was disrespectful to all those who have given him yet another chance at redemption.

From these latest incidents we can only deduce that because the message is obviously not getting through, the punishment is insufficient.

Maybe Ferguson, who has now seriously transgressed twice in the space of three months, deserves to be banned from ever playing rugby league in this country again.

And George Burgess should be told to back his bags and head back to England.

Too harsh you say?

Maybe it is. But what is the answer?

How does the message get through?

I have no idea, but I hope NRL CEO David Smith does.

He is apparently being paid $1 million plus to run the game and he needs to find an answer, quick smart.

Everyone associated with the game - everyone - is sick to the back teeth of these grubs ruining the image of a game that so many of us love.

All punched out

No one in their right mind condones, let alone encourages, violence in rugby league.

In that respect it is understandable the blanket 'one punch' banishment has been implemented by the NRL.

Unfortunately though, the administration is responsible for a knee-jerk reaction, something which former boss David Gallop turned in to an art form.

And David Smith, quiet as a lamb since the Paul Gallen incident in Origin I, took 10 days to make a comment and then imposed the sin-bin edict, mid Origin series, mid-season.

But he would not have had to formalise this statute had referee Ashley Klein done his job.

Without hesitation he should have sin binned Gallen, even though the bin is generally not used for foul play.

In the past, referees have been able to use their discretion when blows are traded between players and even though a 'stink' is a bad look, for some reason a punch on the rugby league field was deemed a different beast.

But society condemns it, as do all other football codes.

As someone who has covered the game for three decades, I have never shared the fascination others seem to derive from a punch up.

By its very nature, rugby league is an explosive collision sport, and genuine tough guys show their mettle in how they dish out the big tackles, and how they cop them.

And we certainly don't need violence in our game for it to be entertaining.

The no-punch edict is a sensible move, and long overdue.