“These aren’t just ordinary young men and, therefore, I think it’s incumbent on the sports they play for to give them really good evidence-based education that works so that they’ve got an opportunity to really consider the consequences of their behaviour on others,” she said.
“In the case of the NRL, I did three large research projects working with a team where we talked to over 200 players. We got surveys, we got really honest stuff from the guys – and that included how they use social media – and then we had really interactive education scenarios.”
Lumby used real-life scenarios based on situations players might find themselves in, such as someone videoing them in a club or being approached by intoxicated women during a night out. “And getting the guys got to work through, when does a good night out become a bad night out for everyone involved.”
“Because as it unfolds, there are opportunities to prevent things going wrong.”
But Lumby said some sportspeople were “education-proof”.
“My phrase was always, ‘If you’ve been given a lot of opportunity to get it and you still won’t get it, you’re education-proof. So get out because there’s a lot of young men in the queue who want the opportunity and privilege [of] playing an elite sport.’”
McCarthy, an AFLW player with Hawthorn, said: “I think the training itself is good and the concepts are fantastic but perhaps it needs to be something slightly more thorough considering some of the recent issues.
“It’s obviously an online module, so engagement can be limited.
“I would certainly be happy to share my experiences to the men’s players to demonstrate some differences we experience,” she added. “I would also love to similarly hear some of the challenges and expectations placed on the men’s players that they have struggled with in the industry.”
The AFL said the decision to move the training online was to ensure every player completed it, and while no in-person visits could be undertaken in the past few years due to COVID, it gave the league a chance “to think about the next iteration”.
“The training is an important part of the players’ curriculum, they require a 100 per cent pass rate in order to complete, and in conjunction [with] our clubs we continue to educate, support and reinforce the policies,” said an AFL spokesperson.
“This training module is one of five modules to be completed, including a race and vilification module. Any score under 100 per cent requires a retake.”
While the majority of players entering elite sporting systems know certain behaviours are wrong or illegal, Lumby said they may not be entirely clear around issues of consent. For example, how one would negotiate sexual consent and what happens when alcohol is involved.
“If I look at the NRL guys I’ve worked with over the years – and a lot of them are fabulous guys – what was really clear was that most of them wanted to do the right thing. They actively wanted to do the right thing. But sometimes they just didn’t know what the right thing was.
“And I don’t mean something as obvious as, ‘don’t rape people’, but knowing what active consent looks like.”
De Goey on Tuesday apologised and accepted responsibility for his actions, which included trying to expose a woman’s breast. Collingwood chief executive Mark Anderson said it did not matter that the behaviour was consensual. “Our very strong position is that disrespect to women is never to be tolerated,” he said. The AFL also described De Goey’s behaviour as unacceptable, and he will have further behavioural education.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said that Australia is at a significant turning point where in the last five years we have seen an increasing community awareness of the importance of gender equality and respect for women.
“We have seen significant commitment towards providing safety and equality through action in workplaces, education, parliament and sport, but continued measures are needed to ensure equality, safety and respect for all,” Jenkins said. “Because of its influence, sport has an important role to play.”
The AFL said regardless of the training provided, it always aimed to have the best possible training available to the players and others working in the industry.
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