Allegations of match fixing and revelations about the gambling problems of star players have been a blight on rugby league. Now experts are hailing a new Australian film taking a tough and uncompromising look at the issue of gambling and sport.
The movie Broke is yet to attract a mainstream theatrical release but it has already won a string of international awards and commendations, touring the country at small invitation-only screenings.
The screenings are being hosted by gambling counselling services and other support groups.
Broke is the tale of what is left behind after the full-time whistle has blown, the crowds have gone home, and a champion player has nothing to fall back on except the need to keep on winning.
The film is fictional, but writer and director Heath Davis was driven to write the script after witnessing the emergence in recent years of the sports betting phenomenon and seeing the impact it is been having on footy fans around him, old and young.
Davis told AM the main character 'BK' is based on a variety of individuals he has known who have fallen to gambling addictions.
"I grew up in a rugby league town in Penrith in western Sydney, so I know a lot of ex-NRL players and juniors who played rugby league that all suffered elements of addiction with gambling," Davis said.
"I thought, here's a story that I could make on a small budget. But also something that could resonate and have a real social message about an issue that is not going away any time soon."
"And people are getting moved by it and it's impacting on people which is the most satisfying thing out of all of it so far."
Actor Steve Le Marquand plays the role of the fallen hero, trying and repeatedly failing to piece his life back together.
Le Marquand said the role pushed him to learn the complex emotions that drive some people to become addicted to taking a punt.
But he said that, unfortunately, he did not have to look far for inspiration.
"It was all sort of there for me. Sadly there was a plethora of information for me to research. There's a lot of guys from the NRL who've been through this.
"I had to understand the psychology of it more. What drove people to gamble. I spoke to a lot of specialists as well."
The film has earned the thumbs up from many of those who work with problem gamblers.
HopeStreet Gambling Help counsellor Sondra Kalnins said "every issue that a problem gambler experiences was covered in the movie — ranging from desperation, depression, homelessness, financial crisis, relationship crisis, and even the thoughts of suicide."
Problem gambling counsellor Rhonda Woodford added "it is one of the few movies that actually tells the truth about gambling."
"A lot of movies focus on the gambler being the hero, and the girls, and being very popular — but this really tells the other side, the people who are struggling with a gambling addiction."
It is insights into these issues that make the film a valuable tool for those who work with problem gamblers, and their families.
Tovia Alefosio was a young rugby player in New Zealand when he first began laying bets on pretty much any sport he could get odds on.
It was not long before he was spending all his money feeding his addiction.
Mr Alefosio said he saw a lot of himself in the film's main character.
"I could really identify with how low he got … and I could identify with the anger," he said.
"Gambling made me a very dishonest person, a very deceitful person. There's nothing worse than being where I've been because of gambling.
"And because of what I do now I can walk proud and answer my phone and walk the streets without having to hide and avoid people."
His fiance' Tully Rosenberg hopes the film will bring a better understanding of gambling addiction to a wider audience.
"To see it up on the big screen and see it de-stigmatised ... I think it's kind of amazing that people will see it and it will create an awareness around that issue."