‘What are we instilling in our future?’
Broncos prop Chelsea Lenarduzzi has taken aim at internet trolls who tormented teammate Julia Robinson in the past week for derogatory comments made about her athletic physique in a training photo.
Robinson and the Broncos addressed the situation on Tuesday night after the star winger reacted to comments on a photo of her in a singlet which included one that said she was a "woman in a man’s body."
Lenarduzzi is among many NRLW athletes who were willing to speak up about body shaming in the lead-up to the competition’s kick-off on Saturday after the image of Robinson drew poor responses from keyboard warriors.
“Julia is all good, I messaged her at training yesterday and she posted it because she realised it wasn’t alright and it needs to be called out,” Lenarduzzi told NRL.com at the NRLW season launch in Sydney.
“People just aren’t used to seeing what a female rugby league player's body can look like and it becomes more an issue about their own insecurities.
“I just find it a weird thing to ever comment on someone else's look. Even as a woman to comment on how a man looks, it’s unrelatable for me to even comment.
“But then you go and look at who comments about a woman in our game or any other sport and it’s usually a father of a two-year-old daughter.
“Like what are we instilling in our future if that's who is bringing up our next generation? Julia is the prototype of what you want as a female athlete. She’s strong, fast, fit and wins every fitness test.
“She eats well and is the benchmark for others to be. Then you get asked with some of the bigger girls how do they run. Well how about you have a look or even better turn the TV off and keep scrolling. Just ignore it if upsets you that much.”
Broncos captain Ali Brigginshaw said body shaming were among the negative comments that players constantly read while other jibes towards their gender are also high on the list.
“No matter if it’s in sport or in your workplace, there’s always something if you’re a female. There’s always a comment around it. It’s not ok for people to shame people’s bodies,” Brigginshaw said.
“Us women are very strong, but if you’re having that bad day and you see that comment, you might not be so strong.
“That’s when these trolls think it’s ok just to free speech whatever they want. It’s not fair and it’s not right.
"We see comments, or people might see comments and they’re not directed at them so they leave them.
“[It's important that] anyone who sees a negative comment, whether you’re a family friend, a mum, a player, that you’re reporting these comments. Because it’s not fair on any player. Even in the men’s space.
“If you see a comment that’s unfair to any player, what we can do as a rugby league community is shut them down."
Dragons forward Elsie Albert is a constant target on social media with her physique drawing negative attention by people online regularly.
The NRL and Dragons’ social media accounts are often littered with comments towards the PNG star which are either filtered, monitored or removed.
Albert has learned to deal with the comments but has put practices in place to ensure she is not affected by them.
"I've just learned to stay off social media and not listen or read things from people I don't know," Albert said.
"There are a lot of comments out there from people who don't know me but will write something by how I look. It's not nice but I have a lot of support at the Dragons and in PNG.
"I train to be the best player I can be for my teammates and to be the best forward in the game. I play the game to have fun with my mates, not to read comments."
In March, Titans centre Evania Pelite responded through Instagram after screenshots of her breasts circled on social media following an embarrassing on-field moment where her sports bra was pulled from underneath her.
“I felt like I had to address it, I personally thought it was a funny situation but it can be sad if it’s someone else, you feel like you have say something,” Pelite said.
“It’s more just around educating people. Like sure share it around, do what you want, but I’m proud of my body, I’m proud of my boobs and think they look great.
"Everyone's different with their body and appearance and while I found it all in good humour there needs to be a level of respect shown to players who may not."
The RLPA have launched their own way of support for Robinson, encouraging fans to show off their muscles using the hashtag #ShowYaMuscles in the lead-up to the NRLW season.