THE RLPA might take a dim view of Newcastle’s new hard-line stance on player misbehaviour, but it is unlikely the general public will share such sentiments.
Even by rugby league’s standards, this has been a tumultuous off-season that has done nothing to enhance the image of the 13-man code.
After a mind-boggling procession of incidents which have left high-profile players facing serious criminal charges, fans are entitled to have formed the view that enough is enough.
So when Knights chief executive Phil Gardner vowed last Monday to severely punish any miscreants, the consensus of opinion was overwhelmingly supportive.
Unfortunately for Gardner, before the week was out he was dealing with another alleged off-field indiscretion.
This time it involves centre Tautau Moga, who will appear before Newcastle Local Court on March 21 after being charged with common assault, after he allegedly slapped a taxi driver twice in the head on Boxing Day.
Given that Jacob Saifiti copped a $25,000 fine for a much-publicised night out – despite the Knights releasing a statement that declared he “attempted to defuse a situation involving other innocent bystanders, which led to his assault” – Moga is presumably slightly nervous about the fate that awaits him.
Regardless of how the Moga case plays out, it is a reminder of the dilemma all NRL clubs face.
Players have never been better educated about their responsibilities and how to avoid potentially problematic situations. They have never been more aware of the consequences should they transgress.
Yet there are still a small minority who continue to run the gauntlet.
This is not a conundrum that can be solved by the people who occupy seats in a boardroom.
The real driver of cultural change has to come from within each and every playing group.
When players consume alcohol in public – as they are entitled to do – it is very rare they are accompanied by club officials. Indeed that is probably the last thing they would want.
Hence the responsibility for upholding behavioural standards rests with their peers. In particular, senior players.
Team leaders in all codes are usually respected and admired by their colleagues.
A word of advice, or a kick up the backside, can leave a lasting impression on an impressionable rookie. If the old heads set a good example, off the field as well as on it, then there is far less likelihood of younger teammates misbehaving in their company.
If there is no misconduct, there is no need for fines or any other form of sanction.
Peer-group pressure will always be a more effective deterrent than any big-stick approach from management, although it is unrealistic to expect 100 per cent of players to be angels 100 per cent of the time.
The unfortunate reality is that whenever one of them steps out of line, their reputations are collectively tarnished by association.