NRL gender adviser’s shock take: ‘not a sex scandal’
The NRL's leading gender adviser has delivered a shock opinion on the Canterbury Bulldogs' alleged schoolgirl sex controversy, declaring: "This is not a sex scandal, this is a workplace conduct issue".
And Dr Catharine Lumby is at odds with the many calling for the Bulldogs players to be sacked, saying "they have done nothing criminal as far as we know".
"Women over the age of consent are allowed to have sex, and plenty of them do," Dr Lumby told The Daily Telegraph.
The comments come amid new allegations that Bulldogs star Jayden Okunbor asked a 16-year-old girl to send him nude images via Snapchat following a high school visit in Port Macquarie last month.
In one screenshot image it's claimed Okunbor, 23, asks the girl to "show tits".
Both Okunbor and Corey Harawira-Naera, 24, were stood down from last night's opening round clash against Parramatta for allegedly breaching Canterbury's player conduct code by taking girls back to their team hotel rooms.
The screenshots also show Okunbor allegedly asking the girl what she was doing that night, while one girl reportedly bragged about going to the team hotel on Instagram, with more images emerging on TikTok.
While Okunbor's social media connection is claimed to have followed a school visit, Harawira-Naera allegedly met a girl at her after-school job and later on social media.
Dr Lumby said her main concern was how this was affecting the girls and their families.
"What we need to focus on is whether sex is consensual, safe and ethical," Dr Lumby said.
"That is the whole focus of the education I have worked on with the NRL.
"I have huge concerns for these young women.
"They can make their own decisions and they have a future and let's leave them out of this.
"This is not a sex scandal, this is a workplace conduct issue.
"And I don't like the word sex scandal because it implies that these young women, like, it was all inappropriate.
"Women over the age of consent are allowed to have sex, and plenty of them do."
The Canterbury board is expected to meet with chief executive Andrew Hill and coach Dean Pay in the next 24 as the club works with the NRL's integrity unit to come up with an appropriate punishment.
It is understood Hill and Pay were ropeable that the players broke club policy but also see this as a moral issue.
The players have until Tuesday to respond to a breach notice.
The Bulldogs have already lost a $2 million sponsorship deal as a result of the controversy.
Dr Lumby refused to be drawn on what she would deem appropriate punishment but was adamant she had complete faith in the NRL integrity unit.
"I do believe it deserves a penalty because it has broken a workplace code of conduct," she said.
"They have done nothing criminal as far as we know.
"Let's be very, very clear that consensual sex is fine.
"When it comes to NRL players they are not allowed to have consensual sex in the context of bringing someone to their hotel room.
"That is very clear. (The allegations) have breached that code of conduct.
"But let us also be very careful of turning this into a so-called sex scandal.
"I don't know what that means in this context.
"If these young women consented that is fine.
"The women have done nothing wrong.
"But let's not blow this out of proportion and let's certainly not drag the girls and their families into this.
"I think in this case the appropriate penalty will be decided by the NRL working with the integrity unit and with advice from the club.
"There has already been a serious penalty. These players have been stood aside and the Bulldogs have lost a major sponsor."