Footy Abortion Deal ‘Appalling’

NRL women’s expert has ‘deep concerns’ over claim

Ashleigh Gleeson & Sarah Blake

The NRL’s top expert on dealing with women says using a footy fixer to pressure a girlfriend into an abortion is “appaling”, as the Penrith Panthers yesterday insisted they were blindsided by the claims of a $50,000 payment made on behalf of their star player Bryce Cartwright.

Image from The Daily Telegraph

Professor Catharine Lumby, who has advised the NRL on cultural change and education programs for more than a decade, last night called on the code to investigate the matter.

“I also want to express my deep concern, if the facts are substantiated, that any culture of secrecy, silencing and bullying exists in the NRL game, particularly at club level and particularly if it involves third-party brokers to pressure young women who feel they have been harassed or used,” Professor Lumby said.

Penrith tried to distance themselves from the scandal last night. “Panthers board and management has no prior knowledge of these allegations ,” Panthers group chairman David ONeill said in a statement.

“At no stage has the club communicated with ‘Miss X’ or directed any other person on behalf of the Pantherns to do so.”

The Daily Telegraph contacted Penrith general manager Phil Gould last October when the woman was still pregnant and had been unable to contact Cartwright.

Gould declined to take her contact detals and told The Daily Telegraph he would speak to Cartwright’s manager.

The woman, known as Miss X, was paid $50,000 to abort the unborn child of Cartwright, who was also dating another woman when she fell pregnant.

Miss X, who said she gave the $50,000 to charity, said the NRL integrity unit needed to look into where the money negotiated by former Panther player and footy fixer Lou Zivanovic came from.

“I am disappointed they won’t investigate. I can only say the truth about what happened. Hopefully my speaking up like this means other women will come forward as well,” she said.

“What I never understood is everyone at the club knew this situation was happening and not once did anyone reach out to me to check on my welfare.”

Cartwright remained tight-lipped yesterday but his current girlfriend Shanelle Peeti took to Facebook accusing Miss X of asking for $176,000, including being reimbursed for two overseas post-abortion holidays.

“When I sent those costs to Bryce I was upset and hormonal because he said he would do anything to kill this baby,” Miss X said yesterday. “I was pregnant and felt very protective of the baby and I wanted to see just how much money he was willing to pay, what price did he put on the baby’s life.”

“I messaged him the next day to apologise and said let’s stop fighting, let’s try to work something out. The only money that I recieved was the $50,000 and I gave it away straight away.”

An NRL spokesman said: “The NRL believes this is a private matter and has no comment to make.”

Prof Lumby said it was “very rare” for women to make up allegations of this kind. “As the pro-bono gender adviser to the NRL on education, I would be appalled if it is the case that any woman was pressured with money, or offensive text messaging, to terminate a pregnancy, that is a terrible decision for any woman to make and I offer my full support to any woman in that situation,” she said.

Professor Lumby said the issue went to the “heart of standing up for women’s rights in a male-dominated culture”.

“And I expect and hope that the NRL will look deeply and closely into this issue.”

Originally published in The Daily Telegraph on Monday March 6th 2017.