Few people expected to see the Melbourne Storm in the NRL’s semi-final weekend but, unfortunately for their opposition, here they are.
In one of the most important days in recent rugby league history, the NRL finally proved its worth and came down hard on player behaviour and front office scandals, setting a huge precedent for the future.
After an offseason from hell with dozens of players and clubs misbehaving and bringing the game into disrepute, NRL CEO Toddy Greenberg said that there was no other choice than to act in a stern and resolute manner.
“We cannot afford to ever have an off-season like this again,” NRL CEO Todd Greenberg 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 stated that these new policies provide the game with a ‘unique’ opportunity to rid itself of past discrepancies and to start over, aiming to prevent any more bad behaviour.
Criticised in the past for being too reactionary and passive, these past few days show how the NRL and the Australian Rugby League Commission are acting on the front foot trying to prevent this in the future, and for that, they should be applauded.
Players such as Jack de Belin and Dylan Walker have both been stood down until their court proceedings are finalised, as part of the NRL’s new no-fault stand-down policy. Other players such as Bulldogs’ Dylan Napa and Cowboys’ Scott Bolton have had their salaries been fined by 10 per cent and five per cent – respectively – while Bolton has also been suspended for ten weeks.
While some will argue that the presumption of innocence should see players such as Walker and De Belin unsanctioned, that time is now over.
The past years have shown that the NRL will continue to get burnt and look foolish until they finally make a stance. They must protect their image and these scandals that continue to plague the offseason must stop. The NRL have found a viable and correct solution to try and end that and it must be continued.
Clubs such as the Cronulla Sharks and Wests Tigers have also received punishments from the NRL in regards to their involvement with salary cap breaches over the past years.
The Sharks have been fined $750,000, with $500,000 being discounted because of self-reporting, and will also have $350,000 deducted from their salary cap over the next two seasons. The NRL has also continued to deny the registration of premiership-winning coach Shane Flanagan’s contract.
The Tigers have also been fined $375,000, 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. Their salary cap has also been reduced by $319,500 per season for the next two seasons, while CEO Justin Pascoe has been suspended for six months for his involvement.
These punishments signify a new and, hopefully, positive era for the NRL. As the sporting community was trying to recover from cricket’s ‘sandpaper-gate’ scandal and cheer on the Australian cricket team, scandal after scandal involving players and clubs alike continued to destroy the reputation of rugby league in Australia.
While misbehaviour and misdemeanours have always plagued the NRL and its branding image, these new rules and policies will finally set a positive precedent for the future, notifying players and clubs that acting out is not viable.