Parents wary of league violence

Wary: (From left) Kelly Muirhead, Nicole Cantero, Jennifer Fletcher.
Wary: (From left) Kelly Muirhead, Nicole Cantero, Jennifer Fletcher. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

They are the mothers in rugby league's heartland, watching their young boys play soccer. If the chief executive of the Australian Rugby League commission, Dave Smith, is to win over a new generation of families, these are the women he needs to convince that rugby league is not an overly violent sport.

After Paul Gallen's punches made more headlines than NSW's win in the State of Origin, some families are wondering whether league is cleaning up its image.

''I do think it's really disappointing because the clubs are doing so much work trying to improve the reputation [of the game],'' said Kelly Muirhead, 41, from Campsie who is the mother of two boys, Clancy, 10, and Tom, 6.

She said her young sons are huge rugby league fans - ''they're mad Tigers and Rabbitohs fans and they watched the State of Origin'' - but she doesn't want them to play rugby league because of the tackling.

On the soccer sidelines at Ewen Park in Hurlstone Park, in the heart of the Canterbury council area (and Bulldogs territory), there were mixed opinions among mothers about whether their young boys should be playing league.

I wouldn't want it to be my son.

Nicole Cantero, 38, from Petersham said her two sons, Sebastian, six, and Xavier, eight, were playing soccer because it was a much more ''gentle'' introduction than rugby league.

''My husband would have preferred rugby league because he's always played rugby league but I think soccer is a good first step, it teaches them the ball skills and it's a more gentle start,'' she said.

She said she was worried by violence in rugby league, including the Gallen punch-up.

''I wouldn't want it to be my son out there but I think every mum would be the same,'' she said.

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Jennifer Fletcher from Summer Hill, who has four boys aged between eight months and 10 years, said it was unfortunate that violence occasionally flared up in many male adult sports , not just rugby league.

Her sons each play a different sport: the eldest plays rugby union, the second rugby league and her six-year-old Thomas plays soccer.

She said she was disappointed Gallen's punches were perceived as good for ratings.

''Bearing in mind these guys are role models to young boys, maybe there should be a bit of a balance between what would be good for ratings and what would be good for raising boys who can play sport responsibly and respectfully,'' Mrs Fletcher said.

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