This Josh Reynolds situation is just about the trickiest off-field dilemma the NRL has seen.
The Tigers’ marquee player – according to his salary he’s actually struggled to even make the starting 13 since his move to the joint venture club – was this week cleared to play in the opening round despite the fact he’s facing serious criminal charges.
Of course what separates Reynolds’ case from that of so many others is the level of scrutiny his accuser has come under this week, which I’m not going to rehash here.
But the other thing that separates it is the relationship he shares with the boss of the league.
I’m not saying that Todd Greenberg can’t be impartial toward Canterbury players just because he used to run said club.
But as the old saying goes, “Not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done”.
While I’m sure Greenberg has far more information than the average punter and has reached a fair and just decision with regards to Reynolds’ case, it doesn’t look great that Greenberg and Reynolds have an existing relationship from their years working together at the Dogs.
Especially when Reynolds was cleared to play on the same day that Tyrone May was told his 12-month no-fault stand down was going to stretch out for another few months, as he will not be allowed to return to the field until Round 5.
It’s been noted by the clubs as well.
“It’s not a crack at Todd, but the CEO shouldn’t be the judge, jury and executioner in these matters,” an unnamed club boss told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“There needs to be a proper process that’s transparent, whether it be a committee or an independent body.”
The unnamed boss cited Sam Burgess having a crack at the NRL judiciary last year to emphasise his point.
“When Sam Burgess calls [the judiciary] a ‘kangaroo court’, he gets to have a coffee with Todd. Does everybody who breaks the rules get to do that? It’s not a good look.”
Rugby League Players Association chief executive Ian Prendergast used the week’s issues to highlight the RLPA’s unhappiness with the no-fault stand-down policy.
“The sanctions handed down today further emphasise the need for an agreed independent process to deal with integrity matters, ensuring that the parties involved are treated fairly and in a consistent manner,” Prendergast said on Friday.
And both Prendergast and the unnamed boss are dead on.
It’s not that Greenberg can’t be an impartial judge, it’s that he can’t be seen to be an impartial judge – and perception is everything.
The fact is – and this really shouldn’t surprise anyone – a policy that was rushed into place barely a year ago isn’t working in its present form.
That’s not to say it can’t work or should be scrapped; simply that it needs some tweaking.
The good news is that there’s no need for the game to go splashing the cash hiring people to establish a new behavioural policy body to adjudicate on these issues.
It’s already there in the form of the Integrity Unit.
Really the only question is why has Greenberg been left holding the can on this issue instead of the Integrity Unit from day one?