Exposing kids to NRL isn't worth the gamble, says dad
"THE Sharks are a good bet today Dad."
It's not the sort of thing you would expect a youngster to say as he watches the football with his old man.
But when Nambour man Paul Westwood heard it come out of his five-year-old son's mouth, he realised things had gone too far.
The father of three loves rugby league as much as the next bloke, but says the way its TV coverage has now been woven in with a clear gambling message means he has had to ban his boy from watching.
And the young fellow will be playing soccer next year, not league, as a result.
"I'm a lifelong fan, I've been playing since I was five years old but the amount of gambling involved in the game has become pretty offensive to me," Mr Westwood said.
"Last season it was pretty bad with the half-time betting updates but to see it this year with Tom Waterhouse on the panel laughing and joking about losing money, it's not a good look."
Rugby league has a long association with gambling, with former Parramatta Eels star Nathan Hindmarsh candidly admitting he was affected by a serious gambling problem during his career.
Recent allegations against Canterbury star Ben Barba have also fuelled concerns.
Mr Westwood said he believed the link between rugby league and gambling was sending the wrong message to youngsters.
"After explaining to my kids how poor Ben Barba, a hero to them from last year, was a victim of gambling and drinking, here is this smiling Tom Waterhouse influencing people who watch the game to bet.
"I love a beer and a bet here and there, but this is insidious, disgusting and completely goes against everything the NRL supposedly stands for.
"In light of the recent scandals, it's not a good message to be getting out to the grassroots level.
"They'll never stop it because of the revenue it creates, but when it is being shoved in your face constantly, encouraged at half-time, it's too hard to ignore."
The long-suffering Blues and Cronulla fan said that he could understand advertising and signage at NRL grounds, but when panellists spoke about betting during television coverage the issue became too big to ignore.
"I don't think the kids notice the sponsorships as much - the beer signage and that sort of thing. But when Tom Waterhouse is there on screen talking about betting, the kids hear that and it sinks in a lot quicker.
"To have it as part and parcel of the game is taking it too far."
"The NRL needs to get rid of this rubbish or risk losing the kid audience.
"Mine will be playing soccer next year."