While condemning the senseless assault of a 16 year old referee at a junior rugby league game in Sydney’s south on Saturday, many in the community were silently breathing a sign of relief the young victim wasn’t also a female.

“The league has enough image problems when it comes to its treatment of women,” one fan told FMF. “While nobody wants to see young kids assaulted just for doing their jobs, can you imagine if the ref had also been a girl? It would’ve made things ten times worse.”

Victor Trebuchet from PR firm Blunt Force Metrics told FMF the fact the victim and assailant were both male means the incident can be handled more easily by the code. “It’s a bad headline no matter which way you look at it, but once the initial shock dies down it’s a lot easier for this incident to be classed as ‘passion gone overboard’ mixed with a bit of ‘boys will be boys’, both of which are very hard to do with female victims.”

The NRL could not be reached for comment.