el Masri with ex-wife Arwa Abousamra
Former Rugby League player Hazem el Masri, his ex-wife Arwa Abousamra and their three beautiful children were lauded as the perfect Muslim family. He was the gentleman of the NRL, the quiet family man who never got angry on the field or off it - ever.
He was admired and respected by everyone and became an ambassador for White Ribbon, an organisation that campaigns to stop violence against women. But something went wrong and the family was split apart last year by divorce.
Yesterday we learned that 39 year old Masri will face court tomorrow charged with assaulting his new wife at his home in Bankstown on Monday night.
Ex-wife Ms Abousamra immediately came to his defence and issued a statement to the media. "Hazem never as much as raised his voice to me, even in an argument. We separated two years ago but remain the best of friends."
She said the thought of her ex-husband striking a woman was "incomprehensible" and that she had to be the primary disciplinarian of their three children because "he just didn't have the heart."
"Hazem's respect for women is beyond reproach, as is his character" she said.
In 2009, El Masri was named the inaugural Women in League's Favourite Son, awarded for being a role model to younger players and a person whose off-field characteristics "embody the true values of the Rugby League community."
The NRL was quick to react to the shocking news and so was White Ribbon, both cutting him loose as Ambassador.
Chief Executive Libby Davis said "White Ribbon is very disappointed to learn of the charges laid against former Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldog's player and former White Ribbon Ambassador Hazem el Masri".
And so say all of us.