Late last year, Dolphins centre Valynce Te Whare was exiled from pre-season training and publicly told to lose weight or forget about playing in the NRL. Veteran coach Wayne Bennett told News Corp at the time: "I've sent Val away to get fitter – that's the situation.
"He came back to pre-season way too heavy and too unfit to play NRL at that body weight. He is doing no ball work with us at the moment. Our priority is to get him fit, so I've asked (trainer/conditioner Mark) 'Chopper' Burgess to help out.
"At this level, you can't carry too much extra weight, not the way the game is played now. You can't hide out there – you need a huge amount of fitness to make it in the NRL."
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Bennett then compared Te Whare to former Brisbane and Queensland star David 'Coal Train' Taylor, another player whose fluctuating playing weight was a constant talking point. But is it the public's right to know how much professional athletes weigh? And should they be held up to the sort of scrutiny Te Whare came under?
Should the NRL follow suit and stop publishing player weights?
On the back of the AFL refusing to publish players' weights in their official season guide, there are two schools of thoughts when it comes to divulging the secrets of the scales. In the one camp sits the "they’re professional athletes and maintaining strict physical levels are part of the deal". The other camp – the more modern take – is it's body-shaming and belongs to a bygone era.
Danni Rowlands, from the Butterfly Foundation, works with people impacted by body image issues and eating disorders. She applauds the AFL's move to remove weight from players' stats and is gently urging the NRL to consider adopting the same stance.
"I think it is a positive step forward. I think making weight not important when it comes to athletes is critical," she told Yahoo Sport Australia.
"I know it can be jarring and uncomfortable for people when it comes to change, but I think we sometimes forget athletes are not actually public property. They're actually human beings - obviously high performing and excelling in their chosen sport - and that doesn't mean that every aspect of who they are and their body is accessible.
"Ideally, we wouldn't see weight as the most important thing to be publishing. We need education and awareness around why that is problematic for players."
The NRL has stated it won't be following the AFL's lead this year, but Rowlands hopes that may change in time. She said: "It'd be great for them (the NRL) to be taking some steps in the right direction around supporting players in relation to body image but also in relation to eating and eating disorders in sport."
For support and information about eating disorders or body image concerns, call Butterfly’s National Helpline on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673), chat online or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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