On just his second day as ARLC chairman, Peter V’landys made a powerful statement on inclusiveness in rugby league by slamming the door on Israel Folau, again.
In his first official media conference following a two-day ARLC meeting in Penrith, the Racing NSW boss said the inclusivity of rugby league changed his life as an immigrant child and he had zero tolerance for Folau’s anti-gay messaging.
Former chairman Peter Beattie had also previously shut down an attempt by the sacked rugby union star to resume his NRL career.
On Thursday, V’landys supported the move.
“The game is inclusive. Israel’s comments are not inclusive,” V’landys said.
“When I was a kid and kids used to get bashed up because they were different, I used to go and defend them. And a lot of them, it’s because their role models or their peers made them that way.
“I have no tolerance for people that put other people’s lives [at risk] or [commit] violence. It’s a big statement to make. With due respect to Israel, what he says, young kids listen to. He is a role model. They act on it. And when you’re a kid at school and you get bashed up because you’re different, I don’t think that’s a good thing.”
V’landys migrated to Australia with his family as a child from Kythera in Greece. He said the inclusivity of rugby league had changed his life.
“I came out here as a four-year-old migrant, stayed in Wollongong and went to school and I was very isolated. Didn’t know anyone, couldn’t speak any English,” he said.
“The only way that I was able to be a part of the community was to play rugby league and that’s the sole reason I’m on this commission, is I want to repay the debt that rugby league gave me in my life because without rugby league, I could be in jail.
“I could be anywhere because it set my path in life forward because I was accepted and included as an Australian.
“I think we need to be more inclusive and I think the greatest asset our game has is it is very inclusive. We need to attract the Asian communities and the new communities.”
V’landys also spoke about his views on players misbehaving and said he had a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence.
However, in some instances, he believes players should be given a second chance to turn their life around if they have been previously punished, using Wests Tigers forward Russell Packer as an example.
“We need to make sure we’re not punishing people twice,” he said.