Revealed: The culture of bullying and abuse at Wests Tigers
James Phelps, The Daily Telegraph
November 6, 2016 5:00am
A SHOCKING culture of fear, bullying and harassment is threatening to rip the Wests Tigers apart.
A damning report on the Club alleges at least two NRL players have considered committing suicide, while others spoke of being bullied to the point of tears.
The Sunday Telegraph can reveal the NRL club has been accused of having a “total lack of concern for player welfare’’ in a bombshell welfare report conducted by the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA).
The scathing report was conducted by the RLPA last year after several Tigers players alerted the organisation about their “major concerns about player welfare and wellbeing’’ at the club.
The eight page document obtained by the Sunday Telegraph contains a series of scathing comments from unidentified players.
The report is scathing regarding the club’s treatment of players.
One player made the alarming claim that some of his teammates were “thinking about ending it’’ and another accused the club of failing to improve player welfare after the suicide death of prop Mosese Fotuiaka in 2013.
“Having already had a player take their own life at this club I am scared it will happen again,’’ said one of the players surveyed by the RLPA.
“This club hasn’t learned anything from what happened with Mosese. To be honest I think it has gotten worse. I know two players this year (2015) who have thought about suicide. The thought of it makes me sick.’’
The Wests Tigers this week confirmed the authenticity of the report and admitted to having obtained the damning document in which players claim to being bullied by club staff.
“Players are bullied to the point that after the game on of the boys was in tears,’’ an unnamed player said in the report.
“Injured players are ignored by senior coaching staff and some boys fear getting injured because they think they will never make it back into first grade,” the player said.
“If boys have off-field issues they are treated like shit. And get this the head coach doesn’t speak to players for weeks at time.’’
The document also alleges the Tigers ignored the welfare of former captain Robbie Farah, who left the club this year after a widely reported feud with coach Jason Taylor.
The opening page of the report — titled notes — alleges the Tigers were only concerned about the club’s image during the long running feud between the captain and coach that finally ended when Farah quit his contract with Wests to join South Sydney.
“The situation with Robbie Farah and the meeting I attended highlighted a total lack of concern for player welfare issues from the Club,’’ the report states.
The bitter feud between Taylor and Farah ended when the former skipper left the club.
“From the Chairwomen down it seemed the club had no real issue with the way Robbie’s situation was affecting him personally, however the Chairwomen noted that having this played out in public was affecting the clubs image. It was evident Robbie had note been afforded any welfare support from the club.’’
The report was written in October 2015 by a former RLPA welfare officer after the annual RLPA “State of Play’’ survey contained alarming remarks about the culture at the Wests Tigers.
“Players told me about their teammates contemplating self harm,’’ wrote the former RLPA employee.
“Others have lost confidence and self esteem.’’
The nature of the comments made by several players in the survey prompted the RLPA to write the scathing report.
“Normally such a paper would not be provided,’’ continued the author.
“However issues relating to player welfare and wellbeing are of a serious nature, the welfare department at the RLPA has documented all issues so that a plan to improve can be developed.
The report raised serious concerns about the treatment of injured players.
“I was injured this year,’’ said a player.
The report details other players could take their own lives like Fotuiaka.
“And for the weeks that I was out and in rehab the head coach never contacted me once. He totally ignored me and when I was fit to play he had a go at me for not putting the team first by being lazy in my rehab.’’
Several players also made scathing comments about Taylor, who was sacked by his former club South Sydney for a “Mad Monday’’ altercation with forward David Fa’alogo
“If I stayed at the club for one more season with JT as coach I would have bashed him like David Fa’alogo did,’’ said a former player.
“Or I would have done something to myself.’’
Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe yesterday declined to comment on the report, while the NRL said they had not received a copy of the document.
The report was scathing towards coach Jason Taylor.
“We have not seen that report as it was prepared specifically for the club,” an NRL spokesman said.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said the NRL’s welfare department had done a lot of work with the Wests Tigers in the 12 months since the report was compiled.
“Naturally, if we can provide any further support to players or the club we will do so,” Mr Greenberg said.
The Tigers issued a media release on Friday announcing the club’s appointment of former player Dene Halatua to a welfare role.
The release came just hours after the club learned the Sunday Telegraph intended to publish the report.