Off the Wall

For the first time in a long time rugby league has made the front page of both the Melbourne daily newspapers.

But, as readers would know by now, it is all bad news, very bad news.

The charging of the Storm's Greg Inglis with the serious assault of his girlfriend comes at a time when the NRL, and many clubs, are genuinely seeking to help address one of society's great evils - domestic violence.

About the only positive to come out of this story today is that the Melbourne Storm have stood Inglis down from all involvement with the club. It deserves to be commended for that.

But the headlines today - and it is front page in the Sydney and Brisbane dailies - is a terrible blow for rugby league. The extent of the damage this will cause should not be understated.

Last week the headlines were about parents of juniors, and incredibly officials, behaving badly at suburban Sydney and Brisbane. That was bad enough at a time when the game at the schools/juniors levels are under real challenge from other codes.

But today's headlines are simply dreadful. Not only is Inglis a Maroons and Kangaroos star, he was also a part of the season launch campaign, along with Brett Stewart! Perhaps the answer next year is to use cartoon characters in the ad campaign to launch the season?

The really sad aspect of this story is that the media has in recent weeks been focussing on all the good being done by the great majority of players day in day out. And it needs to be said that Greg Inglis has been doing some outstanding work with kids in his own indigenous community on the NSW North Coast.

The incident in which he is alleged to have assaulted his girlfriend puts all his good work at risk.

Time will tell whether or not he is guilty. In the meantime, a dark cloud hangs over his future in the game. It is simply a tragedy all round.

The Melbourne Storm do it tough when it comes to media coverage in Melbourne. Today its task is not just that much harder.

While players have been accused of more serious crimes than assault, it is the domestic violence context of this allegation that puts it in a very bad category.

The Storm's response has been timely and appropriate. The real test for the Storm, and the NRL, will come if the charges are proven in the weeks or months ahead.