A long-term education program at the NRL has taught players to better understand sexual ethics and to empathise with victims of sexual assault.

Playing By The Rules is a program based on research and advice provided to the NRL by Professor Catharine Lumby, Director of UNSW's Journalism and Media Research Centre (JMRC) and Dr Kath Albury. The program, which implements education strategies for players in relation to off-field behavior, has been running at the NRL since 2004.

In 2010, Professor Lumby's research team repeated surveys conducted with players at the beginning of the program and found evidence that there had been a substantial improvement in players understanding of sexual ethics.

The researchers asked the NRL players if they agreed with the proposition: "Any woman who teases a man sexually and doesn't finish what she starts, realistically deserves what she gets." Only five per cent of players agreed. This statistic is in stark contrast to other studies of the general population's attitudes to sexual assault which demonstrate a widespread tendency to 'blame' the victim.

Professor Lumby said the research confirmed that the NRL is taking the lead in educating young men about the impact of sexual assault on victims, with a number of players and ex-players volunteering to be trained in delivering sexual ethics education to current and emerging players.

"It's very rewarding to see men taking leadership in this area to change attitudes and behaviours where change is needed," she said.

Professor Lumby works pro-bono with the NRL in consultation with Karen Willis, the director of Rape Crisis NSW, and Professor Moira Carmody of University of Western Sydney. Dr Albury from the JMRC designed an education curriculum for the NRL as part of her ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship research.

Media contact: Fran Strachan | fran.strachan@unsw.edu.au | 9385 8732 | 0429 416 070