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NRL launch 'Stronger Together' Multicultural Round for week three

Jarred Cross -

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo has said "everyone is welcome" in rugby league ahead of the competition's Multicultural Round in the third week of the season.

The league launched the round, themed 'Stronger Together', in Parramatta on Tuesday.

Multicultural Round was first initiated in 2022.

The round kicks off on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, or 'Harmony Day' on Thursday.

Following formalities, players, guests and local schoolkids took part in a 'Harmony Walk' marking the occasion.

League data says diversity in the game is the widest it's ever been, with 236 different heritages present at the grassroots level.

Of that, seven per cent are born overseas.

Pasifika and First Nations Australians each make up close to 20 per cent of all participants.

In the men's national competition, more than 63 national heritages are represented.

30 per cent of current NRL players are born overseas, and close to half have at least one parent born overseas.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players make up 12 per cent of the men's playing group.

NRLW players showcase slightly more national diversity, and 17 per cent identify as Indigenous Australian.

Around half of all players in the men's and women's competitions identify as Pasifika.

"From grassroots to the elite, players, officials, volunteers and fans, there is natural and authentic diversity across the Rugby League community," Abdo said.

"This Multicultural Round, our message is clear – Rugby League gains strength from diversity.

"No matter your background, identity or where you come from, everyone is welcome in our game. Rugby League is the greatest game for all."

It comes after the game faced the fallout of Roosters forward Spencer Leniu's racial slur against Broncos half Ezra Mam during the two side's season curtain-raiser in Las Vegas.

Leniu - who is of Samoan heritage, was handed an eight-week ban for calling Mam a "monkey" mid-match.

The severity of the comment, and level of appropriate sanction required dominated footy headlines for a week.

Following last week's judiciary hearing, Abdo reiterated the leagues stance on racial vilification.

"The penalty applied tonight underscores the zero tolerance rugby league has for racism. From this sad event some important lessons can be learned," he said.

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