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NRL's 'blokey culture' targeted in Club Respect trial at 27 Victorian youth clubs

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For the NRL it's been a disastrous off season, with allegations of violence against women reaching crisis levels.North Queensland's Ben Barba received a lifetime ban after a video emerged of him allegedly assaulting his partner at a Townsville casino during the Australia Day weekend.St George Illawarra's Jack de Belin has been charged with aggravated ual assault, and Manly's Dylan Walker faces charges of assaulting his partner.On Thursday the Australian Rugby League Commission moved to limit the damage, announcing it would stand down players facing serious indictable offences while they were before the courts.The commission said the new policy would help rebuild the rugby league's tarnished reputation.Amid this backdrop, a new program is trying to stamp out violent and ist behaviour before it begins by changing the "blokey culture" of youth sports clubs.And it is women who have brought it into play.Club Respect is being trialled at 27 NRL youth clubs in online tools and outreach, it aims to develop a culture of tolerance and respect at the grassroots level and tackle problematic attitudes towards violence against women and girls."When there's deep respect, there is no violence," said Mary Crooks from the Victorian Women's Trust, which developed Club Respect together with violence prevention organisation Nirodah.At the Eastern Raptors NRL club in Boronia in Melbourne's east, Club Respect has been in place for three years and there is a belief it has had a profound impact.Coaches and volunteers at the club use the Club Respect tools to address a range of issues, from creating a tolerant and accepting club culture to specific advice for coaches, volunteers and supporters.Outreach from Nirodah workers has been a key part of the Club Respect program, with in-person instruction helping to change the culture."It's given us the tools we need to to help interact with the kids," said club president Trent Ousley.In training sessions, the adults at the club are taught how to deal with situations ranging from violence, to unruly supporters, to ism.The club believes setting an example for young players is crucial, so they observe what is and is not acceptable behaviour."We want to create a movement," said Paul Zappa from Nirodah."Imagine clubs where we squeeze out any opportunity for violence." The Raptors have seen a big jump in the number of girls and women playing and in participating as volunteers and coaches since the introduction of the program."Respect is very important in this club, like from every age," said Camille Chamodon, a 25-year-old player for the Melbourne Rebels Women's team.Ms Chamodon regularly trains with the men at the Eastern Raptors and said the atmosphere was very different from her experience at other clubs."If boys and girls are together, play together, train together .that will show that we can live together and build something, that there is no big gap between boys and girls in sport and in life," she said.M

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