Australian rugby league apologizes for sex scandal

The Cronulla Sharks and the North Queensland Cowboys play on April 19 in Adelaide, Australia.
Australia’s National Rugby League apologized on Tuesday for the behavior of its players after ABC’s "Four Corners" current-affairs program revealed allegations of group sex in 2002 between players and a New Zealand woman.

Two other women told the program they were sexually abused by NRL players. “Violence against women is abhorrent, and sexual assault and the degradation of women is just that,” said David Gallop, the NRL’s chief executive. “So much of what we saw [during Monday night’s program] was fundamentally indefensible. And if anyone in the game today is ignoring the importance of that message, then frankly they will need to find another career.” The allegations of group sex involved NRL personality Matthew Johns, who played for Cronulla at the time of the alleged incident in Christchurch, New Zealand. Johns was suspended indefinitely by the Nine Network on Wednesday. “The fact is, whatever the arguments about the details of the New Zealand incident involving Cronulla players in 2002, the conduct and its aftermath was simply unacceptable, full stop,” David Gyngell, Nine’s chief executive officer, said in a statement on the network’s Web site.

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“I fully endorse David Gallop’s comments concerning the indefensible conduct of some players and the lack of respect for women — and the critical focus on all stakeholders to help eradicate it from our game.” “I join with him in extending my apologies and sympathy to the young woman involved in the incident, who clearly is still distressed as a consequence,” Gyngell said. In the ABC report, the then-19-year-old woman said she met Johns and his Cronulla teammate Brett Firman when she was working as a waitress. She said she went back to their hotel room, where she alleges six Cronulla players and staff had sex with her, while a half-dozen others watched. “They were massive, like big rugby players. I felt that I just had no idea what to do. There was always hands on me,” she said. “I thought I was worthless, and I thought I was nothing. I think I was in shock. I didn’t scream. They used a lot of mental power over me and belittled me.” Less than a week after the incident, the woman made a complaint to police and about 40 Cronulla players and staff were questioned, ABC reported. Those involved said the sex was consensual and no charges were filed. The woman told ABC she’s speaking out now because she wants the wives and girlfriends of the players to know what they did. “If I had a gun, I’d shoot them right now,” she said. “I hate them. They’re disgusting.” Before the ABC report, Johns addressed the allegations last week on the Nine Network. “It was an incident that was investigated by police. It caused all parties enormous pain and embarrassment,” Johns said. “For me personally, it’s put my family through enormous anguish and embarrassment, and has once again. And for that, I just, I can’t say sorry enough.” In his statement, Gallop pointed to NRL initiatives put in place since 2002 to promote positive attitudes toward women, including programs developed with the help of a rape crisis center. “Rugby League means an enormous amount to millions of people and, in many ways, the football we see today and the strength of the competition is better than it has ever been,” he said. “No amount of on-field success, though, can take away from the need to face up to these issues.”