6 February 2016

The C Word. And, as it happens, the L Word.

Super League recruitment this year has seen an influx of antipodean players that I would argue represents an uptick in terms of the talent we have seen coming over in recent years. The arrivals of Frank Pritchard, Glenn Stewart, Sika Manu, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Kurt Gidley, and yes, even Big Dave Taylor should all prove to be positive additions to their respective teams, and serve to augment the experience of the viewing public as the year goes by.

By the same token there are certainly players who, in the kindest terms might be described as journeymen or, in more disparaging circles, past it.

Sometimes of course, these “global professionals” go on to wow us, become cult heroes to their respective fans, and live on in the lore of Super League long after their brief flashes of brilliance have faded.

Over the years some fine talents have graced our stadia. It would be fair to say that in some cases, the circumstances which have brought certain players to our sport have been less than glamourous. Todd Carney and Joel Monaghan lost their place in the NRL as the result of various indiscretions. It is flatly because of their immature and frankly stupid actions that they are now plying their trades in the Northern Hemisphere - but it would be unfair to both Carney and Monaghan not to mention that they are doing so with some aplomb.

In both Carney and Monaghan’s cases their behaviour and subsequent decampment to Super League was met generally with the rolling of our collective eyes. Much mickey-taking followed but there was far from the groundswell of outrage that some portions of the world outside rugby might have expected, or even hoped for.

Having said that one of this season’s new arrivals has, certainly at SLP Headquarters, sparked some degree of deeper upset.

Robert Lui arrived at Salford during the off season amid relatively little fanfare. For a halfback with some real skill this may seem surprising, but Lui comes with some pretty serious baggage. Baggage which goes way beyond the drunken exploits of a young man in the public eye. This is perhaps why he was not lauded as he might otherwise have been upon arriving on English soil.

For the benefit of those who may not be fully informed, Lui has been convicted of occasioning actual bodily harm on his partner. It does not require me to editorialise, or try to influence a reader’s reaction in any fashion to illicit an emotional reaction to this. Or at least it shouldn’t.

I will state here and now that I do not consider the indiscretions of misters Carney, Carney, Monaghan, Ferres and Hardaker to be even in the same stratosphere as a crime such as this. And I will further state that I do believe that since Lui has been punished for his crimes, in the eyes of the law at least, he should now be allowed to seek employment in the same fashion that others in the same position do, provided he is subject to the same checks and balances that exist for such people.

My personal opinion is that he should not be allowed to play rugby professionally again. Fortunately I don’t make the rules. If I did the world would be run quite differently and I’m not sure I’m up to the task.

And so to the crux of the matter. On a personal level both Mark and I feel a strong sense of indignation towards Robert Lui. His actions were repugnant and represent some of the most cowardly acts a man can perform. His continued presence in our sport, to my mind, demonstrates a willingness on the part of our governing bodies to tacitly approve of those actions, although I understand their hands are tied to some degree.

Our hands however, are not tied. We can chose to do what we like with Robert Lui. We can call him all the derogatory words we wish whenever his name comes up, or we can choose to deny his existence all together. Initially our plan was to simply ignore him. I recall saying that even were Lui to win Man of Steel this year I would choose not to mention it and deny him the oxygen of publicity our show offers (albeit in minuscule amounts!).

So the decision was made simply to not give Lui the time of day in our little corner of Rugby League Media. Then something happened.

A Salford fan whose opinion we hold in high esteem, pointed out to us that Lui had played well in pre-season and that we had neglected to mention this during our season preview show. This presented me with a bit of a problem.  Whilst we do not claim to be the loudest voice in Rugby League, we do claim to be all encompassing and to cover every aspect of the sport. I found myself wondering aloud if I had been over-reacting by deciding not to talk about Robert Lui’s on field performances because of the disdain with which I view his previous behaviour.

I don’t like having my guns unstuck, so this was a strange feeling for me.

There is a petulant child who lives in my brain. He tells me to do things from time to time that I know I shouldn’t do. He also gives me the worse possible advice when it comes to my behaviour. Occasionally I listen to him with disastrous consequences. Whilst I was thinking about Robert Lui this kid spoke up. “Talk about him, but call him a c*nt every time you do”.

See? Terrible advice.

It goes without saying that I can’t use the turn of phrase “the woman-beating-c*nt-Robert-Lui” every time I refer to the man. Firstly, whilst I like a good swear and have no problem with the word on a personal level, I know that others will find this in poor taste. Poorer taste than beating your other half? Probably not, but there is no reason to let the actions of one man cause me to lower myself too far.

I decided I needed to be better informed on the subject. So I Googled it. Ten minutes later I knew how I wanted to proceed with the whole Robert-Lui-Woman-Beater thing. It has taken me a couple of weeks to get my thoughts in order, but I think I’ve landed on a healthy solution. In fact, I think I can shoehorn Robert Lui’s abhorrent actions into something positive….

Each year around 2.1m people suffer some form of domestic abuse -  1.4 million women (8.5% of the population) and 700,000 men (4.5% of the population).

In 2013-14 the police recorded 887,000 domestic abuse incidents in England and Wales.

Seven women a month are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales.

85% of victims sought help five times on average from professionals in the year before they got effective help to stop the abuse.

These statistics are readily available by going HERE. You can go there right now and see this first hand, as I did. Doing so opened my eyes.

Of course I knew that domestic violence occurs, but not in these numbers. I’m now angry at myself for being naïve to this issue. Particularly I was astonished how hard people suffering from domestic violence have to work before receiving adequate support.

I have decided not to be naïve to this issue anymore.

Let me put things in simple terms. If there are 100 women at the next match you attend nine of them are suffering some form of domestic violence. I’m not trying to marginalise the men who suffer in this fashion, but as the parent of a little girl this is where my passion lies.

This is an awful thought and reducing this type of crime can only happen if we talk about it. So I’m going to talk about it. Every time Robert Lui comes up organically on the show, I will refer to him as “convicted domestic abuser Robert Lui”. Does this solve the problem? No. Can I solve this problem alone? No. Can I do more than slag off one criminal to raise awareness of this issue? Your damn right I can.

So here is what I propose.

I am committing here, now and in writing to raise money and awareness for victims of domestic violence. Over the next twelve months I will be undertaking different physical challenges in the name of the charity Refuge, which helps countless women to escape from abusive relationships every year. I will be running both 10k’s in Blackpool and Preston (July 7th and September 25th respectively) and on the eve of the Grand Final I will be cycling 200km. In doing so I will be canvassing for sponsorship, I will also be talking about this as the weeks pass on the show. You’ve been warned. And of course I invite you all to do the same.

What I’ve realised by thinking about this issue is that hiding it doesn’t help diminish it. Ignoring Robert Lui as a protest against domestic violence is pointless. Talking about the subject in broader terms will. Raising money for the charities which work so hard to reduce this will. If you feel compelled to sponsor me (and believe me, over the coming months you’re going to want to donate just to shut me up) please head to www.justgiving.com/superleaguepodstandsup

The plan is to raise £2000 for this worthwhile cause. If everyone who follow us on twitter gave just £1 we would smash that target.

My aim is now to turn something terrible into a positive, rather than let it fester within me. I would urge everyone who reads this and everyone who listens to the show to do the same.