Despite the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) global pandemic forcing the NRL to suspend its 2020 season and putting all clubs, players and parties involved under great financial threat, the Cronulla Sharks have continued their fight to make bullying history.
As part of their partnership with the Make Bullying History Foundation, the Sharks have continued to help deliver anti-bullying seminars to Sutherland Shire schools during the NRL hiatus.
Although some schools were forced to postpone the presentations over fears of the Coronavirus, a remote presentation was shown to a classroom at Sylvania Heights Public School, along with a presentation in a ventilated hall with students separated for social distancing purposes.
Make Bullying History Foundation CEO and co-founder, Brett Murray, said the award-winning program has been a huge success with the Sharks over the past five years.
“The Sharks are working with us to create remote presentations when schools return to normal, allowing us to have players send live messages to the students of encouragement,” Murray said.
“In 2018, the Sharks Make Bullying History Initiative was voted number one health and well-being program in NSW, to our knowledge no other sports team in any other code in the nation has received this honour.
“The Sharks went from being 16th in the NRL for community engagement as independently audited in 2014-15, to 1st and the envy of the entire NRL in 2016 through the Sharks Make Bullying History Initiative and remain [1st to this date],” he said.
Over the course of the five-year partnership, the Sharks have sent first grade players including Paul Gallen, Michael Innes, Joseph Paulo, Josh Dugan and Luke Lewis (who shared a remote video message) to present with Murray.
The presentations often involve Murray interviewing the athletes, educating primary and secondary age students about bullying, it’s impacts and how to stop it.
The Sharks have also helped support the foundation with fundraising, providing an annual Make Bullying History Game Day and a signed jersey each year.
An independent research project by McCrindle Research found the Make Bullying History Program has been proven to be the most effective bullying education and prevention program in the world with a 77 percent success rate.
Murray said he has plans to have every club across the NRL engaged in the program in their own catchment areas, following in the footsteps and success of the Sharks.
“In 2018 we signed another two-year deal with the Sharks taking us to the end of 2020,” Murray said.
“The Sharks have expressed their desire to continue the relationship for at least another five years, impacting an entire generation of young people through the schools of the Sutherland Shire over a ten-year period.
“The Sharks initiated negotiations with the NRL in 2019, the same week that the NRL posted their first major surplus of over $55 million.
“Negotiations were continued through communications with [NRL chief executive] Todd Greenberg’s Executive Assistant earlier this year but were halted due to COVID-19 and the ensuing crisis.
“We will be pursuing the vision to have every club across the NRL to engage in the Make Bullying History Initiative through their own catchment area,” he said.
While discussions with the NRL have been put on hold due to the current global pandemic, the Make Bullying History Foundation, along with the Cronulla Sharks, have no intent of stopping their fight.
“We’re only just getting started,” Murray concluded.