During an NRL game between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Melbourne Storm at Brookvale Oval on the 26th August, a sideline brawl, referred to by the Sydney Morning Herald as ‘The Battle of Brookvale,’ broke out resulting in 11 charges and $50,000 worth of fines being issued to both clubs by the match-review committee. Tensions ignited when Manly's Glenn Stewart and Melbourne's Adam Blair were sin-binned for becoming involved in an on-field clash between two other players. Stewart and Blair began exchanging punches on the sideline and the incident quickly escalated as nearly all other players got involved.
22-year-old Manly forward, Darcy Lussick, pleaded guilty to his involvement in the altercation after boasting to the Rugby League Week magazine, ‘that last Friday was the best day of my life, to do that with my mates out there'. He was charged with a grade four contrary conduct offence and was publicly reproached by NRL chief executive David Gallop for his comments.
The clubs’ $50,000 fines were, according the Sydney Morning Herald, issued for ‘bringing the code into disrepute’. This demonstrates the NRL’s resolve to promoting a positive image of the game and of its risk management strategy for minising any fall out on the brand of rugby league.
While former league star, Trent Barrett, believes that the NRL will not suffer significant brand damage as a result of the incident, it has brought into the limelight the question of whether there is a place for ‘the biff’ in sports culture.
Images of on-field football violence in Australian Football codes is less frequent now than it was 15-20 years ago. While some commentators came out after the Brookvale incident in support of on-field brawling arguing it is something that the fans want to see, the reality is that images of players injured from brawling, and poor self-discipline do not convey the values that any football code or their sponsors wish to promote.When will they learn?