Hit of the year?
Western Force have stopped short of sacking two players – and also denied a cover-up – despite being forced into a humiliating admission their players did mistreat quokkas on Rottnest Island.
Former Wallaby Scott Fava and Richard Brown were fined after being found guilty by the club of being drunk in public, anti-social behaviour and inappropriately handling the protected marsupials during a team bonding session last weekend.
But after the club admitted one quokka had been thrown – and eye witness accounts of animals being swung by the tail during the drunken Friday night – the Force insisted no animal had been harmed.
Fava, who has been disciplined twice before by the Force for alcohol-related issues, was ordered to pay the Rottnest Island Conservation Foundation $11,000 for throwing a quokka up to five metres, and handling others.
He will also do a week of community service and start counselling for alcohol abuse. Brown was fined $5,000 and also given a week’s community service.
Both players apologised, with Fava admitting he was seeking treatment for a binge-drinking problem.
“It is has taken this incident to educate me that our indigenous quokkas are sacred and not to be interfered with,” Fava said.
“I interfered with quokkas in fascination of our icon, not to be cruel, not to show off in front of my teammates and definitely not to hurt them.
“But whether sober or drunk they should not be touched. They are awesome creatures of this earth and I apologise profusely for being intoxicated and thus being clumsy in returning a quokka to the ground.
“I have a weakness … an alcohol binge-drinking problem. It is time it stopped, and I have now started on the road to rehabilitation.
“My wife says I am a good husband and father when I am sober, but she says her and my baby girl do not deserve this … and I wholeheartedly apologise to them.”
Furious Force chairman Geoff Stooke said the playing group had not lied when first confronted with allegations of animal cruelty – but had neglected to provide all the information.
That was why the club initially found no mistreatment had occurred.
“There is absolutely no cover up,” Stooke said.
“If we had conclusive proof that someone hammer threw a quokka … they wouldn’t be here tomorrow.
“I would go through thick and thin to nail anybody if they have done some of the things suggested.
“We don’t believe anyone lied, but they weren’t forthcoming with information. The fact they did not come forward to me and to my board … that is a distinct lack of integrity.
“Things were unsaid that should have been said.”
The fines came after another eye witness to the incident – calling herself Rebecca – gave her account on Southern Cross radio.
“The boys had a lot to drink, started picking up the quokkas by the tail and swinging them,” she said.
“He was swinging it by the tail, he didn’t let it go, but he was standing too close and it hit one of my friends in the face.
“One of them then took his clothes off, did a nudie run, urinated, before a couple of them invited themselves into a dorm and would not get out.
“I was absolutely disgusted.”
Stooke said the club would have fined the players involved more, had it been allowed to under the Australian Rugby Collective Bargaining Agreement.
And he also said Fava was perilously close to getting the sack.
“It is almost like the maximum we gave them, the next step is tear up their contract. There is not enough stops in between,” Stooke said.
“Scott is no fool, and anyone would realise that if there was to be a further breach (of discipline)… his ongoing role here would be very questionable.”
Senior player Scott Staniforth said the fallout from the incident had impacted the whole club.
“Everyone is very upset and very apologetic, and the ramifications are massive,” Staniforth said.
“This is not what we are about and we are going to try our best to get the faith back in the Western Force.”
The ARU, already displeased with the Force following a series of lurid headlines involving assaults, hush payments and improper contracting procedures, said they were happy with the Force’s handling of the issue.
“The ARU agrees the players’ behaviour was unacceptable and extremely disappointing, and in breach of the standards expected, ” a statement said
“The ARU is pleased that Rugby WA acted quickly to re-open an investigation …”