April 23, 2021

The betting monster that rugby league created has now come for its players

3 min read

BY CURTIS WOODWARD

@woodward_curtis

Police are quite rightfully investigating threats made to Sydney Roosters veteran Josh Morris after a fan used social media to threaten the centre after losing a bet on Sunday at Campbelltown Stadium.

The punter contacted Morris after the “fan” lost a bet on Morris as the Roosters hammered Wests Tigers 40-6 calling the former Kangaroos flyer a “dog c***” and said he would wait for him outside the stadium finishing with “you won’t know what hit ya”.

It’s disgusting that someone could contact one of the good guys of the game and say what they did.

Morris posted the screenshot to his Instagram page after the game.

“You can’t ruin it for everybody else. You have a bet as a form of entertainment to make it more interesting or make the game more engaging, but we won’t change the rule for the imbeciles at the expense of the people who are doing the right thing,” ARLC boss Peter V’landys said.

“My focus is on eradicating these people and the bookmakers have acknowledged they need to be driven out. The abuse was completely and utterly vile and out of order.”

Utterly vile and out of order.

Absolutely.

But who created this beast?

This snarling, blood-spitting, monster?

Rugby league did.

As Josh Morris checked his phone after the match on Sunday at Campbelltown, he peeled off his jersey and slung it on the ground. Across the back of the jumper, in big, fat, capital letters was the word ‘UNIBET’.

‘The official gambling partner of the Sydney Roosters’ or however it goes.

At the bottom of the NRL’s official website is a swag of sponsor logos.

One of them under ‘major partners’ is Sportsbet.

When you click through on the Sportsbet link to their website, there on their frontpage is the NRL’s logo alongside others like the AFL, Cricket Australia, FFA and NBL.

On Monday, the Penrith Panthers announced ‘BlueBet’ as their new naming rights sponsor of their stadium. If you do a Google search and go through to BlueBet’s website, the company proudly calls their site the ‘Home of the Penrith Panthers’.

It’s the third betting agency to sponsor Panthers Stadium in the last ten years after Centrebet (2011-2013) and Sportingbet (2014).

Gold Coast Titans (Neds), Brisbane Broncos (Ladbrokes), Wests Tigers (Neds) and Roosters (UNIBET) all feature betting company logos on their 2021 jerseys.

Crown Resorts appears on the South Sydney jersey.

Just recently, local betting agencies hit us with their latest marketing campaigns featuring the likes of Hollywood superstar Mark Wahlberg and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal.

Every television broadcast, radio and many podcasts carry them as sponsors.

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Players, journalists and even those in charge of looking after the Dally M Medal have been caught gambling on the game.

It’s all out in the open now.

But there was a time when it was left in the murky shadows that rugby league hides its best and worst kept secrets.

Far away from public scrutiny.

Now it’s front and centre – walking hand-in-hand with the game.

‘Not NRL standard’: Wests Tigers couldn’t possibly pick Leilua brothers on the same side of the field ever again

Gambling has been normalised by rugby league.

And now fans think its normal to abuse the game’s players.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo was strong in his response to the threats slung at Josh Morris.

But one line stood out more than the others.

“It’s important that people realise these types of attitudes are not welcome in our game.”

Who altered fan attitudes to begin with?

This is a slippery slope and we’re not even halfway down.

According to data analytics company Illion last year, online betting went up over 140% in Australia during COVID-19.

The NRL, like all sports, was hit hard by the pandemic.

Now rugby league needs these betting agencies more than ever.

This is only going to get worse.

@woodward_curtis

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