A couple of years ago the NRL announced a Tackle Bullying Program, to help teammates, friends and classmates understand the impact of bullies in sport and other areas of life, and how to deal with them. Bullying is, sadly, still practised within our sporting communities. But we can ALL do something about it.

Remember, bullies in sport are never acceptable and are not something anyone has to put up with. Research has shown that one in six Aussie kids are bullied every week, and are three times more likely to develop depressive illnesses.

So, whether you hang around a bully or the victim, or you are the unfortunate victim, the following tips may help to break that awful bullying cycle. Whatever you do, don’t remain silent and just let it happen. If enough people band together to stomp out bullying, then bullies will pull their heads in.

Not only that, it could be against the law. Bullying that involves physical assault is illegal, as is racial and/or sexual harassment. And because bullying can contribute to psychological injury it may be covered under occupational health and safety legislation.


Bullies can be recognised by their horrible behaviour towards others, and they can be adults or children. Some people are simply mean every now and again (which isn’t acceptable either), but true bullies keep at it and usually pick on the one person, either on their own or with a bully buddy or two. Look out for these telltale signs in the sporting arena.

  • A coach alienating a player or constantly picking on them.
  • People ganging up on individual players.
  • Specific spectators that always verbally abuse certain players from the opposition.
  • A parent constantly telling their child they’re hopeless etc.
  • A player abusing the referee by calling them names and putting them down.
  • A parent intimidating players or young coaches/refs.
  • Players that verbally/physically abuse other players on and off the playing area.


Take a look at this short film clip which features NRL Legends Andrew Ryan, Nathan Hindmarsh, Hazem El Masri and Mario Fenech – they will inspire you to take action and be a hero.



The NRL has developed a Tackle Bullying Hand for those who are experiencing bullying. If you know someone who is a bullying victim, please pass this information on to them so they can try to improve their situation.



 STEP 1: Stand Strong 

Imagine you’re a goal post on an NRL field, it stands strong and upright and can withstand the force of the game of Rugby League. Look down at your feet, imagine that they are planted firmly on the ground, like goalposts on a field. Make sure your body is standing upright and tall – even your shoulders and head. A bully will know from your body language if you are confident or not. If you appear confident the bully might back off.

 STEP 2: Stay Calm 

Appearing calm and in control is important, particularly as bullies like to get a reaction from you. Stay calm with your body, eyes and voice. On the inside you’ll be feeling any number of emotions including sad, angry, lonely and/or frustrated. This is all very normal and understandable. If you stay calm, though, the bully doesn’t get the reaction they want. The bullying might stop as a result.

 STEP 3: Respond Confidently 

It is important to respond to bullies in a strong, clear voice. You should let them know you would like the bullying to stop. Practise this skill at home in the mirror or to a teddy bear or other toy figure. It is important to choose your words carefully as you do not want to make the situation worse. Be polite and keep the statement short. Examples could include ‘Please stop bullying me; I don’t like it’ or ‘I would like this bullying to stop’. This gives the bully an opportunity to correct their own behaviour or put themselves in your shoes.

 STEP 4: Walk Away 

It is important for victims of bullying to walk away and remove themselves from an unsafe situation. Walk away in a confident manner and never stay in a situation where you think you are at risk of further abuse.

 STEP 5: Report 

There are a number of reasons why half of the children who are bullied do not report it. It could be that the victim is scared reporting the offence will make it worse. No-one should have to put up with bullying and you are encouraged to tell two trusted adults about what you are experiencing. These adults could include your classroom teacher, parents, family members or a coach. If you are really unsure about who to report to then you can also contact the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.


Sport and school are supposed to be fun learning environments, where you can enjoy friendships and being part of a team or class. And it should be like that for every child. So let’s do our bit to make sure that happens!


If you have any tips to tackle bullies in sport, then please share them in the comments section below.

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