R M Cullen
MD MSc MFM BA DipStats DipProfEthics
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It's not OK, Dion Snell.
Rugby league likes to refer to itself as a family. The sport's administrators have taken up, and been paid to promote, the "It's not OK" campaign against family violence. So, it is instructive to look at how this family, headed by the Auckland Rugby League and the New Zealand Rugby League responds to a very public incident of violence.
Seventy-five or seventy-six minutes into the Papakura-Mt Albert top of the table Fox Memorial clash George Edwards, the Papakura fullback ran the ball up from a clearing kick. The following incident was filmed by Maori TV and the video has been uploaded to youtube and viewed many thousands of times.
George is tackled and while he is on the ground Snell sticks his fingers in George's mouth. We all know the trick - that ripping motion against the inside of the cheek is annoying and dangerous. Snell then claims he has been bitten, walks around and punches George in the side of the head with a closed fist. George is cut above the eye.
The initial response by the referee, Jamal Thompson is incredible. He looks at Snell's thumb, calls the linesman over as a witness, and signals 'play on'. Lesson number 1 for all the kids watching - if dad thinks hitting you is OK, then it's OK.
There was a lot of comment about the incident on social media, including the ARL FaceBook page. The response of Auckland Rugby League - delete the comments. Lesson number 2 - don't talk about family violence.
It is probable that the matter will find its way to the Auckland Rugby League judicial committee, even though Snell was not sent off, nor was the incident placed on report. The problem then is that Dion Snell is the current poster boy of Auckland Rugby League. He was the 2014 player of the year. The process will not be transparent. Hearings will be behind closed doors. The Mt Albert Club will argue for a minimal or nil period of suspension. There will be the threats of calling in lawyers (as Mt Albert will certainly want Snell available for the semi-finals).
This process is not good enough. Hiding and justifying violence perpetuates violence
It is never OK to punch a player who is lying on the ground and unable to defend himself. Snell should have been sent from the field.
Family violence is not a secret. The ARL should communicate clearly every step of the judicial process.
The Mt Albert coach, Steve Buckingham, a fine and fair player in his day, should consider whether a disciplinary response is required from him, independently of anything the ARL might impose.
The Mt Albert club should consider whether a disciplinary response is required from it, independently of anything the ARL might do.
Maori TV, having broadcast the game to tens of thousands of youngsters, thousands of whom are themselves victims of domestic violence, should send an appropriate message to those youngsters through its commentary team.
When representative teams are selected in the next few months, selectors should consider whether Snell is the type of man they wish to have in their team.
Is family violence a police matter? Should Snell be charged?
Family violence, it's not OK. If the administrators are going to accept the money for talking the talk, they must then walk the walk. Dion Snell's action was cowardly. You don't hit a bloke on the ground. Say it.
Is Snell's family safe from him? Are they? If he can hit a bloke on the ground because he is angry, he may also hit his partner when he is angry. He may shake his baby when it cries. Angry, violent people are not just angry and violent on the field. Whose job is it to approach Snell's family and ask if they are OK?