The NRL today vowed to have no mercy on players or clubs who bring the game into disrepute after a never-ending off-season of sleaze dragged rugby league into the gutter.
CEO Todd Greenberg said every fan in the game had a right to be disappointed by the off-field indiscretions which have damaged the game in recent months.
“We cannot afford to ever have an off-season like this again,” he said.
“I would hope that the sanctions being handed down today will remind clubs and players that there are significant consequences for not complying with the standards and rules we set for our game.”
Greenberg also said that, following the change to the game’s policy on player behaviour, Manly player Dylan Walker will be placed on a no-fault stand-down prior to the commencement of the NRL season.
It will remain in place until the finalisation of his current court case.
“The NRL stresses that we are making no judgement on his guilt or innocence. That is a matter for the courts,” Greenberg said.
Mr Greenberg also announced a series of penalties to players and clubs.
Former Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has had his registration cancelled for breaching the conditions of his 2014 suspension. The NRL will consider any future request to come back to the game on its merits but he will not return in the short term.
The proposed fine of $800,000 on the club for continuing to engage with Mr Flanagan during the period he was banned has been reduced to $500,000 after the club acknowledged and accepted its wrongdoing.
Sharks Salary Cap
The Integrity Unit has uncovered breaches of the salary cap rules over a number of years dating back to 2013. A list of proposed payments to players outside the salary cap was uncovered during the investigation. These did not affect the club’s premiership winning year in 2016.
A breach notice proposing a fine of $750,000 has been issued to the club but $500,000 of this will be suspended because it was the club, led by CEO Barry Russell, which initially self-reported salary cap discrepancies to the NRL.
(This means the club faces total fines of $1.25m ($500,000 suspended) from today’s announcements).
A $707,000 penalty has also been imposed on the club’s salary cap to be spread over the 2019 and 2020 seasons ($353,500 per season).
The NRL proposed a fine of $750,000 late last year for failing to disclose an Ambassador agreement with Robbie Farah when he finishes his career and for misleading the NRL in relation to an application for cap relief.
The NRL has considered the Wests Tigers response to the breach notice - which apologised for the error – and has agreed to reduce the penalty by 50 per cent. This means the club will be fined $375,000 for the breach.
In addition, the club has received a $639,000 salary cap penalty (equal to the value of the Ambassador agreement). The NRL has agreed to spread this penalty over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Club CEO Justin Pascoe has also apologised for his failure to comply with the rules in drawing up the Farah agreement and other governance failings. He has been suspended for six months (backdated to 19 December, 2018). He will be able to resume his duties on June 19 this year.
A request by the Wests Tigers to register Zane Musgrove, who is currently facing indecent assault charges, has been refused until the case is concluded.
The NRL will fine Napa 10 per cent of his 2019 salary following the publication of several lewd videos featuring him.
It was decided not to suspend him because this is an historical incident with the videos dating back five years and due to the Player’s incorrect assumption that the material would not reach a broader audience.
However the NRL has warned that any video damaging to the game which is filmed and date stamped from today will incur significant penalties, including suspension.
The NRL has suspended Scott Bolton for 10 weeks and – and 5 per cent of his 2019 salary – after pleading guilty in January to common assault involving a woman last year.
However it has agreed to halve the penalty if Bolton agrees to address the captains and senior players of all other teams during this year’s Magic Round in Brisbane in May.
Bolton is highly regarded by the Cowboys where he has had an unblemished record over 13 years.
He joined as a 16 year old and has been made a life member of the club so it is felt he is in a strong position to influence other players to avoid engaging in poor behaviour.
The Cowboys have indicated he has agreed to the proposal.
Greenberg said he hoped the NRL would never go through a day like today again – with so many sanctions being issued.
He added: “Hopefully the action we have taken over the last two days will act as a reminder to every player in our game to make the right choices and ensure they do not bring the game into disrepute.”