THERE is no doubt that brawling players from Orange and Dubbo high schools let their schools and themselves down during the Astley Cup rugby league round on Thursday, but they are not the only people who should be taking a good hard look at their behaviour.
Like Dubbo police, who are looking into the all-in fight, officials right across the code should watch the footage of the game and ask whether the fight should be seen in isolation as the product of fierce inter-school rivalry or as a barometer for the level of violence in rugby league in particular and contact sport in general.
In recent times there have been well publicised incidents of violence in Group 10, in the NRL and in rugby union.
The sight of a punch or two being exchanged between two players does nothing for any sporting code but the spectacle of many players and some spectators rushing into the melee should be sending a signal to school and sporting authorities that there may be more at risk here than just a few bruised and bloodied egos.
There was no evidence of any of the traditional restraint which should have discouraged players from running to join in or bystanders from getting involved. It was as if many people were waiting for a pressure valve to blow and only needed an excuse.
Not for the first time in the history of the cup, the education department chiefs will be forced to look at whether rugby league should be remain part of the program.
While it considers this dilemma the code’s administrators need to ask whether the example set at the highest levels of sport has let its juniors down.