Female fans losing confidence in NRL: ARLC

Female fans of rugby league have lost confidence in the game after the spate of off-field incidents, according ARL commissioner Megan Davis.

Reeling from one of the worst off-seasons in history, Davis said the game needed to act in order to turn around public sentiment about the sport.

Five players were charged with acts of violence against females since the end of last season, including free agent Jarryd Hayne and reserve grader Liam Coleman.

All have entered pleas of not guilty before the courts, with the most notable being Jack de Belin who is challenging an aggravated sexual assault charge against him which saw him stood down by the NRL on Thursday.

Ben Barba was also deregistered by the NRL after viewing CCTV footage of an alleged domestic incident at a Townsville casino, while North Queensland forward Scott Bolton pleaded guilty to an earlier common assault charge for grabbing a women's upper thigh last year.

"Obviously we are privy to information that tells us that many women who are involved in the sport have lost confidence in the game," Davis said.

"Particularly with respect to the treatment of women and violence against women. I feel like this decision today will ameliorate some of these concerns."

The change in policy for players with serious matters still before the courts coincided with the game's AGM on Thursday.

According to NRL figures detailed in their annual report, participation rates increased by 3.6 per cent last year - but there was a far bigger jump of 29 per cent when it came to females.

And Davis said the game had to convince parents rugby league was still the right option for youngsters.

"We convince them from this day on (league is the sport for their children), Davis said.

"This is about reviewing the confidence in the game, listening to what it is that women are saying about our game and we move forward from now."

Davis, a human rights lawyer, is also conducting a review into NRL clubs and the game's headquarters into culture and women.

She is also keen to delve further into player education and pushing for more peer involvement, with the NRL spending heavy resources in the area before the latest troubles.

"There's a lot of academic literature that tells us what works and what doesn't work in terms of education programs. A lot don't work," Davis said.

"We'll be taking a ruler across those programs and seeing what the club roles out and NRL is rolling out, looking at whether there are proper assessments and what the qualities of the education is and reporting back."

Meanwhile the league also announced a surplus of $42.8 million for 2018 at Thursday's meeting.