From the Telegraph "One innocent man does not crack a codeÃ¢Â€Â™s ugly secret" One innocent man does not crack a codeÃ¢Â€Â™s ugly secret 0 Comments | Permalink Your Say BlogÂ Â David Penberthy Monday, October 04, 2010 at 05:31pmÂ THE NRL Footy Show might be good for a lot of things such as cross-dressing or making jokes about people who wear tracksuits and live in Bankstown but itÃ¢Â€Â™s probably not the ideal forum for an impartial examination of the law of sexual assault. To describe the program as blokey doesnÃ¢Â€Â™t do it justice. Like its AFL equivalent, this all-male show has long resisted attempts to bring female analysts of the game into the fold. The program is skewed towards the playersÃ¢Â€Â™ perspective when it comes to the degree of scrutiny they face, the demands placed on them, their hounding by fans and groupies. We saw this last year when the programÃ¢Â€Â™s general line on the Matthew Johns sex scandal was poor old Matty was the real victim in an episode which had been blown out of proportion by a bunch of female journos. So it was last Thursday when The Footy Show became the uncritical vehicle for absolution in the Brett Stewart case. Just to be clear - Brett Stewart deserves absolution. It seems regrettable that the case against him made it to court. But in the public debate surrounding the Stewart case, one important point should be remembered. ThereÃ¢Â€Â™s a big difference between offering absolution for Stewart and offering a dangerous kind of generalised absolution which seeks to excuse, dismiss or downplay behaviour which at best is boorish and at worst is criminal. There was an undercurrent to last ThursdayÃ¢Â€Â™s Footy Show which, either unwittingly or by design, presented the Stewart case as proof of what theyÃ¢Â€Â™ve always suspected - that thereÃ¢Â€Â™s plenty of sheilas out there who just make this stuff up. Phil Gould might be the self-styled intellectual of league but when it comes to interviewing the bloke is more Oprah Winfrey than David Frost. What Gould does is lend a sympathetic ear, which is why there was no examination on Thursday of the reckless culture within the Manly Sea Eagles which directly placed Brett Stewart (and every other player present) in a very iffy situation at last yearÃ¢Â€Â™s season launch. StewartÃ¢Â€Â™s encounter with this girl came at the end of an all-day booze-up organised by the club at which one of the players insulted a sponsor for his daughterÃ¢Â€Â™s dress sense. Gould opted not to explore this interesting feature of the story, which you could easily argue suggested dereliction of duty on the clubÃ¢Â€Â™s behalf, but opted instead to waffle on about whether the case showed how careful blokes have to be. The unspoken conclusion was blokes have got to be careful because thereÃ¢Â€Â™s plenty of sheilas out there who just make this stuff up. ItÃ¢Â€Â™s of some credit to Gould that he left it unspoken. But in the public domain, on news websites, fan websites and talkback radio, it was not so much spoken but shouted. Stories were stitched together about other cases ie, two cases - which had also fallen apart to create an artificial sense that pretty much any allegation or charge ever levelled against a league player was a fantasy. And that of itself is a fantasy. League doesnÃ¢Â€Â™t have a monopoly on this problem. This is not a league-bashing exercise. There are a couple of blokes in SaturdayÃ¢Â€Â™s losing AFL grand final side who have provided the Victorian Police sexual assault unit with a bit of work in the past couple of years. Yesterday we learnt that the two players from the premiers Collingwood are under investigation over sexual assault allegations arising from post-match celebrations. It transcends codes, class, colour and creed. And we have all got a problem if we look at the Stewart case as proof that sexual assault allegations should be viewed with suspicion, or that the system is somehow skewed against men. The system remains massively skewed against women. The danger is the public debate surrounding the Stewart case might discourage other women who actually have been victims of sexual assault from coming forward. It should not. The added negative in this case is that so much has been made of the womanÃ¢Â€Â™s mental illness. This has been one of the more tasteless features of this whole sad tale. ItÃ¢Â€Â™s been an open secret for months in media circles that the woman was Ã¢Â€Âœnot all thereÃ¢Â€Â because people at the Manly Sea Eagles launched a whispering campaign. On the basis of what the jury found, those allegations deserved to be rubbished. But the disturbing end result of it all is that weÃ¢Â€Â™ve now got a ready-made Ã¢Â€Âœmad sheilaÃ¢Â€Â defence which can be used by men who, unlike Stewart, donÃ¢Â€Â™t deserve sympathy but a long stint in a cold cell.