Rabbitohs owner Russell Crowe has spoken at length on the club’s new program that will look to combat off-field scandals in the NRL.
Along with co-owner James Packer and South chief executive Blake Solly, Crowe formulated a network that will look to put an end to the constant altercations and incidents that continue to stain the league.
Souths’ Connect, Respect and Residence Program was launched this week, with the idea originally igniting following ongoing text messages between Crowe and Packer.
The former then went to Solly, who had been looking into a similar idea and soon had Packer’s funding to get things underway.
The program will look to educate the club’s growing crop of teenagers on the issues surrounding mental health as well as gambling and drug use at an early stage of their development into adults.
“We sit back and see this happening again and again,” Crowe told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Why don’t we try something a little different here? Dig a little deeper, start a little younger.
“Instead of waiting until we’ve got these players under our umbrella when they’re 19, 20, 21 years old, when they may have developed bad habits that are already hard to unpick, we are going to reach down through our junior clubs and start doing these classes for boys when they are 13.
“The key thing isn’t to have some video presentation, not have someone make a speech, but to bring people in who have had these experiences to talk from a first-person point of view.
“We’re having people talk to them who have gone through experiences; whether it’s to do with respect for women, drug awareness, mental health, gambling … By the time they get to us at NRL level, we will have less problems.
“We’ve very aware of the differences that kids have between households and what they deal with personally every day.
“By the time we’re at under-15s, we’ve lost 50 per cent of the players. Along with them go the mums and dads. We’ve got to stop that drain. The unease the parents have is the discrepancy between players on the field. We want our kids to feel safe.”
The NRL has looked to increase penalties for repeat offenders in the league in recent months, with Broncos star Payne Haas receiving the harshest fine in league history.
The 21-year-old was handed a $50,000 earlier this year following an altercation with police.
NRL boss Andrew Abdo said at the time that the league holds plans to work with players in hope of preventing further instances.
“Yes, we are going to look at the penalty, but we are also going to look at ways in which we can better connect with our players.
“It has been a number of years since we reviewed our penalty regime and what the cap is for the players.
“Since then, a lot of things have changed. The salary cap is higher and financial economy has changed, but equally there is a small group of players that are continuing to transgress not to the standards we expect at the NRL or the standards that the community expects.”