This time last week we were saddling up for NRL sex scandal #847. Commentators were jogging to their designated positions on the pitch, limbering up to churn out the usual for/against Rugby League diatribes, this time about League favourite Matthew Johns, who was about to be outed as a fan of group sex by the ABC.
Then Sarah Ferguson’s incredible report went to air on Four Corners on Monday night and for 36 hours most people were speechless. It was so much worse than anyone could have imagined after Johns’ inadequate explanation on last Thursday’s Footy Show.
I don’t know if it was the vivid way the two young women featured articulated the damage done, the glib comments to Four Corners from the players involved, or the sickening sight of Fatty Vautin slapping Johns on the shoulder after his preemptive strike, but the usual barrage of analysis paused.
Last night Tracy Grimshaw broke the awkward silence.
In a show of courage that this morning had me feeling a bit overwhelmed, Grimshaw editorialised against her Channel 9 stable mate, calling on him to “step up, face some hard questions and talk properly about it… rather than just a few uncomfortable lines delivered on the Footy Show.”
It was incredibly brave of Grimshaw to take on the Channel 9 boys’ club and I would really like to think it was the moment all the apologising, justification, bullying, obfuscation, intimidation and repetition that goes along with NRL sex scandals was over.
This morning Rebecca Wilson, one of the few high-profile women sports journos, also fired up in the most impressive manner. In The Daily Telegraph Wilson called for Johns’s sacking from Nine, and went on to detail what is effectively a conspiracy of silence between the NRL, players, sports media and fans. Wilson wrote:
A core group of male league reporters has for many years tacitly approved the antics of professional league players by ignoring them and sniggering behind the backs of anyone who dares to question those antics. Not a single one of them has even taken a stand against it. Club bosses and team minders are the same. So ingrained is shocking sexual conduct in the league culture that even women close to it become numbed. Each time I write it, I am threatened, abused and snubbed by mainly male league fans.
In taking their stance these two journalists were standing on the shoulders of Ferguson, and the two women whose trust she won to tell their stories. The stand taken by all five of them might finally spare us from NRL sex scandal #848.
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