Soward’s stand has to be good

IN January last year the NRL received widespread positive publicity with its anti-bullying stance.

Players and officials delivered the 'Tackle Bullying' campaign to around 120,000 school students during the pre-season Community Carnival.

Again this year a group of recently-retired stars joined fellow ambassadors and current players to educate up to 300,000 school children on the same subject.

A five-point action plan was aimed at helping victims cope with bullying, and empowering children to stand up for themselves and their peers.

The action points were: stand strong, stay calm, respond confidently, walk away and report.

Most level-headed thinkers would consider this a productive campaign, beneficial to the community and certainly well worth supporting.

But unfortunately some of our elite players apparently did not get the message.

Those who watch Channel 9's Footy Show on Thursday nights will be familiar with Sharks winger Beau Ryan mocking his fellow NRL players.

Sam Burgess and his brothers, Sonny Bill Williams, Benji Marshall and Paul Gallen have all been the subject of his humorous but derisive skits.

This year, Ryan's former Tigers teammate Robbie Farah joined the stable of those being belittled, and so did former Blues Origin five-eighth Jamie Soward.

And while we have heard idle chit chat about SBW and big Sam not being happy with their treatment, Soward has actually informed Ryan - through the media - that he is unimpressed by the ridicule.

While Ryan paints his characters in a light reflected by their physical features, he mocks Soward by using a pronounced lisp. Surely then, this borders on bullying, as Soward was never consulted before the send-up was aired.

And if it is construed as bullying, some of Soward's NRL teammates have failed poorly when it comes to practising what their code preaches.

He has been labelled a sook, been accused of having a cry and of spitting the dummy.

Even Ryan, who publically apologised to Soward, and in doing so used the word bullying, could not resist a jibe at his subject of scorn. When asked about the negative reaction by Soward, he said "we won't do Jamie anymore - we will probably get someone who is a good sport".

I like Beau Ryan on TV.

He is amusing and a genuine media talent.

But did he seriously think he could belittle fellow NRL players on The Footy Show and not receive a negative reaction?

To his credit, Soward has obviously taken note of the five-point anti-bullying action plan - he stood strong, stayed calm, responded confidently and walked away. And if the NRL was genuine in its message to those 420,000 kids during the past two Community Carnivals, they should publically congratulate Soward for his stand and condemn others for their bullying.