It’s high time the NRL held offending players accountable for their off-pitch actions

We’re in a time when even a fairly standard NRL player can earn more than five times the average salary, often for only playing half a game, sitting on the bench or running in reserve.

Players should not be expected too much to respect the game that allows them to live so generously and do their best to avoid situations that bring discredit to their clubs and the game.

If they don’t, they should suffer the consequences.

Currently the RLPA and the NRL are in negotiations to try to finalize a collective bargaining agreement, and what better time for the NRL to make it a condition of the CBA that strong action will be taken against players, coaches and offending officials.

This year again, rugby league is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Even before a ball was hit in anger this season, rising stars Talatau Amone and TC Robati quit pending court appearances on serious criminal charges, and more recently two of the most high-profile players and top paid players Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton have been arrested in Canberra.

Add to that, Warriors striker Josh Curran’s court date for his assault and robbery charges is set for June, and Penrith’s Taylan May has yet to serve his two-week suspension after being suspended. convicted of assault in 2021.

Josh Curran. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

What a great way to start the season.

In the case of Robati and Amone, and leaving aside the impact of their alleged actions on their victims, this is the last thing their respective clubs in Brisbane and St George-Illawarra need, as both are struggling to go up the ladder. . Negative publicity and being a down player will certainly not help their cause, and it brings the game of rugby league into disrepute, yet again.

Mitchell and Wighton’s case is arguably even worse, as they are personalities of the game, their clubs’ number one players, current internationals and NSW-born players, who are paid big money by the NRL. Certainly, a lot more money than they could ever make outside of gambling.

In addition to this, they like to project themselves as role models in general, and with the Aboriginal community in particular. Sure, their alleged actions might not be on the high end of the criminal scale – although resisting arrest might not be a good idea – but the world at large won’t be scrutinizing the slightest. details in case they are found guilty of the charges. . They’re just going to read that another rugby league dope has been convicted of a crime.

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I’m sure most fans will be in disbelief that the NRL saw fit to let Mitchell and Wighton play in this weekend’s All-Star Game, effectively approving of their behavior during team camp when they would have been best served preparing for the game with the rest of the team. Remember the All-Stars game is being promoted as the 2023 season opener and is taking place in Auckland to give sport a boost in New Zealand after several years of effective exclusion due to Covid.

Now the story is more about the deeds of two dills than the game itself, and I can’t imagine the Kiwis being happy. Mitchell and Wighton have already been disciplined for their off-field behavior but apparently learned nothing, and footage of them smiling and laughing as they headed to New Zealand with the rest of the All-Stars were embarrassing for the NRL.

A press release stating that they had been removed from the tour and replaced by two Aboriginal players eager for a chance to represent their heritage would have been preferable.

Rabbitohs' Latrell Mitchell reacts after being sent to sin-bin for a high tackle on Joseph Manu

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

At some point I hope the NRL will develop a pair and introduce a ‘no-assholes policy’ which adequately deals with those who want to trash the game. Players are paid and treated like professional athletes and should be held to behave accordingly. I would like to see the NRL take an uncompromising approach to the behavior of those involved in the game, including:

• Mandatory removal from participation in the match of any player, coach, official, etc., who has been accused of a crime until their case has been decided.

• A fine (whichever is greater) of $50,000 or 20% of the person’s contract salary for a first offense when a player, coach, etc. is convicted of a crime, whether or not a conviction is recorded. Fines should not be suspended and the player, coach, etc. can only continue to participate in the match once the fine has been paid to the NRL.

• A second violation, at any time, will result in a fine (whichever is greater) of $100,000 or 40% of their salary.

• A third offense will result in their exclusion from the NRL and any other competition under the control of the ARL, NSWRL, QRL, etc.

• Any player found guilty of violent assault, domestic violence or sexual assault will be permanently banned from the NRL and any other competition under the control of the ARL, NSWRL, QRL etc.

A little hard ? I don’t know about that, because that’s certainly preferable to the continued negative publicity the game receives, and if players don’t get the message, they can always find another high-paying sport or profession that will keep them in the style they’ve gotten used to.

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