opinion

KIERSTEN DUKE: Candice Warner deserves better from NRL fans after commentary debut

Kiersten Duke
The Nightly
The reaction to Candice Warner joining the Fox League commentary team has shocked me.
The reaction to Candice Warner joining the Fox League commentary team has shocked me. Credit: Supplied/The Nightly

Controversial debuts are often made in sports, but I must admit the reaction to Candice Warner joining the Fox League commentary team as a sideline reporter has shocked me.

A retired ironwoman, reality TV star, TV sports show panellist, mum of three beautiful children and all-round superwoman. Yet her highly commendable sporting experience from a young age and multiple sporting presenting roles still didn’t see her qualified enough for some rugby league fans.

I know one of the silliest things you can do as a professional within the sporting and media world is to read what’s been written about you on social media, so admittedly, I do limit my time on there. But in the short moment when I did open X (formerly Twitter), I saw enough misogynistic, hateful comments about Candice to make me feel sick to my stomach.

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I closed the app pretty quickly.

When Candice was just 22, she hooked up with a rugby league player in a pub toilet.

The said NRL player did have a partner at the time, which is far from commendable but apart from that, what is so awful about a young, beautiful woman expressing herself sexually? In, might I add, the exact same way the man in this scenario did.

If it wasn’t for some absolute specimen of a human sticking their mobile phone camera under the bathroom door, these two humans could have gone on with their lives, in the same way, plenty of young adults do after a big, slightly chaotic weekend.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 26: Candice Warner is seen during day one of the Second Test match in the series between Australia and South Africa at Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 26, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Candice Warner is seen during day one of the Second Test match in the series between Australia and South Africa at Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 26, 2022. Credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

But no. In this split drunken second, thanks to the media footage taken, Candice’s privacy was violated and for 17 years she has been paying for it.

These days if such a thing were to happen there are privacy laws to protect those involved. It breaks my heart that this woman was let down by such a backward society.

In her interview on SAS Australia, Candice, now 39, apologised for the “embarrassment and shame” she brought upon her family.

No Candice. You have absolutely nothing to apologise for. The person who took the photo should be sorry. The media who slut-shamed you until you considered harming yourself should be sorry.

The cricket fans who tormented you to the point where you were so stressed you miscarried your unborn child should be sorry. Oh and now to add to that list, the rugby league fans who seem to think the only link you have to the sport is this incident.

They should be sorry.

You’d think that in 2024 we would have made enough progress where we don’t advocate for mental health round one week before taking to social media the next to slam participants.

Nicho Hynes is a fantastic example of this. He’s one of the faces of mental health awareness in rugby league. He is open, honest and actively trying to make a positive change. During RUOK day and mental health round everyone gets behind him. They’re vocal about how it’s “not weak to speak” only to apparently suffer from short-term memory loss a few days later if he has a bad game.

According to the NRL website, on average 2.5 players in every team will experience depression. They may appear big and tough on game day, but in reality, these are human beings.

So next time you’re frustrated that a player has let down your same-game multi or has had a brain fart and made a mistake, maybe take five minutes before you post that comment. Weigh up if your two minutes of frustration is worth that person’s mental health.

Behind the screen is a human being and the last thing you want to be is a contribution to their suffering or worse.

That’s someone’s sibling, partner, child or parent and I think we all know how we’d feel if the roles were reversed and we had to witness a loved one receive endless abuse.

As a rugby league community, we are better than this. We are making changes, but not fast enough and it’s down to ourselves to make the change we wish the next generation to experience.

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