SYDNEY - NOVEMBER 1993 : TINA TURNER AND RUGBY LEAGUE PERSONALITY ANDREW ETTINGHAUSEN IN SYDNEY.(Photo by Patrick Riviere/Getty Images)

In her 83 years of life, Tina Turner became many things to many different people.

From one half of a rhythm and blues sensation, to the undisputed Queen of Rock 'n' Roll, she was a wife, a mother, and a grandmother, all the while thrilling crowds around the globe in her own inimitable way.

Sequins, leather, teased hair, and all.

Still, it was the Rock 'n' Rolling grandmother's surprise status as a rugby league icon that has seen her own even the most hardened of hearts on either side of the Tweed.

Some 34 years ago, back in a time when double denim and shoulder pads - both on and off the field - were en vogue, Turner's effortless sex appeal was paired tightly with that of the game's gladiators.

For the first time, some razzle dazzle had been injected into a concrete-dusted, grass-stained, working-class game by way of one of the most recallable advertising campaigns Australian sporting fans have ever seen.

Players were stripped bare, in almost every sense of the word; their shimmying posterior shots wedged between frames of female fans going buck-wild in the stands.

The twangy earworm of 'What You Get Is What You See' meshed perfectly with a game seeking to enter a new age, one aimed at capturing a female audience by offering its assets up as thirst traps.

For the blokey blokes in the room, the snippets of a perspiring Benny Elias or Cliffy Lyons sans-jersey may have moved little below the belt, but the adjoining highlights were enough as the track evolved into an anthem.

If Benny and Cliffy were good enough for Tina, the pitch is sure to have read, then surely they could cut a figure with little old Tanya out in Rooty Hill.

'What you get is what you see,' Turner crooned over the montage aimed at mass appeal.

'There ain't nothing more to it.'

While the genial diva had initially been singing of matters of the heart upon reentering the market, they fit the run-it-straight, hit-them-up nature of the 13-man game to a tee. And the game's brass knew it.

Former NSWRL administrator John Quayle - the hard-nosed revolutionary celebrated for advancing the game from bare-knuckle boxing to a box office product - knew that the path towards an expanding national competition involved expanding its market share.

"The thing we were missing was a female audience, female participation (and) viewer participation from the female point of view," Quayle told Fox League in 2021.

By 2013, Quayle's egg had hatched, with women making up 41 per cent of a competition-wide club membership count. The NRL's own bean counters also contended that 45 per cent of the game's supporters were female, with Gold Coast, Newcastle, North Queensland, Parramatta, and Penrith backed by more women than they were men.

But while women now have their own six-team (expanding to ten teams this year) competition, multi-game Origin series, and a much-deserved pay bump, the NRL's playing fraternity has its own hard-earned reputation of using women without due care at best, and contempt at worst.

Heckling. Bullying. Stalking. Glassings. Revenge porn. Assault, both physical and sexual. Rape. Murder.

It's no holds barred on either side of the touchline.

Jarryd Hayne Attends Court For Sentence Hearing Following Sexual Assault Conviction
NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 06: Jarryd Hayne arrives, surrounded by supporters, at Newcastle District Court on May 06, 2021 in Newcastle, Australia. Former NRL player Jarryd Hayne was found guilty on two counts of sexual assault on March 22 2021. The 33-year-old faces up to 14 years in jail at his sentence hearing today. (Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

This isn't to say that NRL players are the only culprits. Ills of this calibre are prevalent along many, many other darkened avenues away from the arena.

Though administrators would celebrate the diverse crowds that ticked through turnstiles as the eighties became the nineties, as the new millennium dawned and Tina hung up her pumps for good, many of this new breed of supporters bore witness to untethered shows of force, both in an out of the stands.

According to statistics published by Our Watch in November of 2021, one in five Australian women over the age of 15 have reported being subjected to sexual violence - roughly 18 per cent of the country's female population.

As of August 2022, Australian Government reports claim that more than half - 53 per cent - of Australian women have also expressed experiencing sexual harassment at least once in their lifetime.

Shockingly to some, 78.2 per cent of these attacks were, and continue to be, committed by men known to these women. And in what continues to be a national disgrace, one Australian woman, on average, is murdered by a current or former partner every single week.

While assaults and hate crimes are undeniably endemic across the nation, rugby league and its people have played their role in ensuring that the game maintains its reputation for acting in step, blow by bloody blow.

In the seasons since Tina turned the game's fortunes, rugby league people continued to pull women from the fringes; placing them under the spotlight when so desired, before punting them back to the periphery when they are no longer required.

Why? Because NRL players have been led to believe they are gods gift to women.

Now where in the world did they get that idea from?

Chris Dawson was found guilty of murdering his wife Lynette in 1982.
Chris Dawson was found guilty of murdering his wife Lynette in 1982.

There can be no denying that the late 80s and early 90s were halcyon days of rugby league in this country, with colour, cash, and verve brought into a game that was once rooted - in every sense - in the suburbs, as players were massaged with hefty contracts to go with their freshly earned sex symbol statuses.

As the fans streamed into venues scattered across the nation, these wage increases were warranted. And while there will likely always be a market for pin-ups of Andrew Ettingshausen, this pedestalling of players ran unchecked.

Like the Dragons' defensive line, any protection on offer was porous, at best. And in some cases, it was deliberately nonexistent, with the game's best and brightest actively waved through to do as they pleased.

At Belmore in the late 90s, working hard in the weights room and putting in the extras wasn't the way to earn the respect of your teammates. No. Pissing in the pockets of unsuspecting women paved the way to a first-grade place.

Over in the Shire, alleged extra-marital affairs were only green-lit if everyone else in the locker room was saved a front-row seat.

"Gang-banging is nothing new for our club or the rugby league," an unnamed Bulldog was quoted by Fairfax in 2004.

As much a part of rugby league as limp scrums and blind-eye officiating come Origin time, they reckon.

In the eyes of self-confessed 'stale, pale, male' Roy Masters, sordid scenes of this nature were once seen as player bonding mechanisms by clubs, however neanderthalic.

"I don't think it plays any role at all now, but in the past there could be little doubt that a girl that might've accommodated three or four players..." the former first-grade coach told Four Corners in 2009.

"It was all part of players becoming a closer-knit unit, for want of a better word."

The key, though, to these night games is consent - a concept seemingly foreign to fleets of yesterday's heroes just as it is today's.

And with yet another highly-paid star in Dylan Brown with too much praise and time available charged with five counts of sexual touching at the weekend, how far has this behavioral bar moved away from rock bottom?

Nearer an inch than a mile if you know who to ask.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 15: Dylan Brown of the Eels reacts after the round 18 NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the New Zealand Warriors at CommBank Stadium on July 15, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

This isn't to tar every NRL player with the same sordid brush. For a large brunt actually live up to their place on the pedestal. They, they say, are as sick of the rot as the rest of us.

"The NRL has poured more resources into research and education about off-field behaviour than any other sport in Australia," gender advisor and NRL research consultant Catherine Lumby wrote for The Guardian in 2018.

The league, via its 'Respectful Relationships' program, conveys black-and-white information to its players, covering topics for the layman such as assault, sexual assault, ethics, indecency, harassment, and, of course, consent.

"We work hard to educate young people about the ethical and legal consequences of their actions, which may change their lives forever," Senior NRL Welfare and Education Manager Paul Heptonstall's words sit emboldened on the league's website.

But what about those they have willfully altered?

And we must see these all-too-frequent acts of cowardice, arrogance, and pure pigheadedness as willful. You have to when the assailants have been specifically forewarned.

Throughout the many public peaks - and private troughs - of her adult life, Tina Turner was branded with many tags.

International superstar. Rugby league icon. Cuckquean. Suicide and domestic violence survivor, escaping her abusive husband with less than a dollar on her person.

Like the game itself, Turner reinvented herself at rock bottom, thrusting herself back into the limelight as a stronger and more popular beacon than ever before. A powerful and independent woman who would inspire many like her, just as she would those living life on poles apart.

But while rugby league in this country would rebuild after the poisonous Super League war, the ills Tina had turned from continue to run unabated. For better or for worse, there is a symmetry between the diva and the game, however, very few have been man enough to mention it.

Whether many of Masters' stale and pale brethren can hack it or not, their game has changed just as the world has changed around them. Any lingering curmudgeons have the Rock 'n' Rolling grandmother to thank for that, as the success of her joint venture could be found in the people stopping her around the globe up until her passing last month.

Yet, despite the campaign's thunderous reception, Tina's genuine article received a few alterations. Making like Dallas Donnelly in keeping things punchy, portions of Turner's hit track ended on the cutting room floor. But as the decades have rolled like the old Manly wedge, it is one omission that hits the highest note.

'And if you want to love a woman like me, it takes a man to do it.' 

Stacked accounts. Fast cars. Property portfolios. Drink cards. The lot. It's high time rugby leagues' bad apples started acting like real men. After all, they wouldn't have any of those things if it weren't for a woman's kind of love.