How can NRL repair it’s battered reputation?
Players union boss Ian Prendergast has met with NRL boss Todd Greenberg to discuss the damage caused to the game by five players being charged with sexual or indecent assault in recent weeks.
Pendergast met with Greenberg, who is concerned about the impact the serious and shameful off-field allegations could have on the game's overall commercial appeal.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Pendergast - the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) CEO - conceded the spate of incidents should force clubs into investigating the culture that exists within their club while also calling on a need to beef-up their welfare and education programs.
"I met with Todd earlier today to talk with him about the incidents that have occurred and the pressures that has placed the game under,'' Prendergast said.
"The key metrics are up across the board so the game is tracking in a really positive direction, but we need to maintain the integrity of the sport for that to continue.
"We need to have a serious look at how we reduce these type of situations from occurring.
"There's an opportunity to do a deeper dive into the cultures that exist within clubs to better understand the standards that are expected of players and that players uphold those.
"We need to better understand the reasons why they're making these decisions particular given the situations they're putting themselves in.
"And the damage that can do to their own reputation, their career and those closest to them.''
St George-Illawarra and NSW Origin forward Jack de Belin is the latest NRL star to be charged by Police, accused of sexually assaulting a woman during a late-night liaison.
This year five NRL players have been charged with sexual or indecent assault, including former Test stars Jarryd Hayne and Dylan Walker.
And despite increasing pressure on the code to introduce life bans for any player found guilty of violence against women, Pendergast stopped short of supporting career-ending bans.
"I accept that players need to take responsibility for their actions and be accountable if they fall short of the expectations that we have of them, however each case needs to be treated on the evidence that is gathered,'' Prendergast said.
"We're not supportive of blanket bans with respect to off-field conduct.
"We believe the integrity of the criminal matters needs to be respected and that we also need to look more deeply at the decisions that are being made by players in these situations.
"Handing down huge penalties, in my view, is not going to have the same impact that continuing to invest empowering the players to uphold the standards we expect.
"I think if it gets to a point where they're found culpable they'll be dealt with harshly by the game because we condone any form of violence towards women.
"And they'll have to suffer the consequences and live with that for the rest of their lives and ultimately they'll probably be out of the game.
"We don't have a huge amount of empathy if it does get to that point, but in the meantime we need to ensure that we deal with them appropriately and with integrity.
"In my view, it (culture and standards) can vary from club to club and there's an opportunity to put more proactive measures in place to manage some of the risk around these situations.''