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Opinion

Andrew Abdo’s fining of the Raiders is inconsistent, incompetent and disgraceful

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15th April, 2021
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Andrew Abdo, what the hell are you doing?

I had real hope that your reign as NRL CEO would be marked by competence and consistency.

And then you fined the Canberra Raiders trainer $10,000.

Let’s be totally frank about this: last Friday night, Panther Stephen Crichton’s actions were disgraceful.

While celebrating Charlie Staines’ game-sealing try against the Canberra Raiders, Crichton loutishly dragged Raider Joe Tapine into the Panthers throng. Then he and his teammates had a great time letting Tapine know all about it.

However, Tapine wasn’t even on the field at the time. He was waiting to be interchanged and was standing off the field of play when Crichton decided it appropriate to manhandle him.

Crichton rightly was fined $1350 by the NRL for being a complete tool. That might not be the official term, but it is certainly the correct one.

The Panthers back should count himself lucky it was only that amount and not an accompanying suspension as well.

During this incident that was totally of the Panthers’ making, a Raiders blue shirt trainer very briefly placed a hand on a Panthers player’s shoulder.

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On Wednesday Andrew Abdo called Raiders CEO Don Furner Junior and told him that the club would be fined $10,000 for that action.

I don’t think there has been a more vocal critic than me in regard to trainers being involved in any way with the play. I have been railing against the seemingly unfettered access trainers have to the field since 2015. I am totally against it and have stated for years that trainers should be kept off the field and if they have any untoward involvement that they should be dealt with harshly.

So please understand that, although the Panthers completely caused this particular issue, and although it was not on the field of play and play was halted, I support the Raiders being punished for the action, no matter how ineffectual it was.

What I don’t support is the massively disproportionate level of punishment that was handed out. Firstly, for the Raiders to be fined $8650 more than Crichton is just wrong. Surely, at a minimum, the amounts had to be the same.

Panthers celebrate try

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

While trainers should never touch an opposition player, players must never pick fights – which is what Crichton did – with those not involved on the field of play.

This was not a standard melee that the Raiders trainer was involved in by any means.

What Crichton did basically amounted to grabbing a benched player, dragging him into a huddle of his teammates and then deliberately goading him. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the play, didn’t involve a player on the ground and didn’t even take place on the field. That is just not on.

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Given that circumstance, how Abdo can see the trainer’s hand on a shoulder as being $8650 worse than Crichton’s deplorable behaviour is beyond me. It’s plain wrong and totally unjust.

However, that’s not the only reason Abdo’s fine is ludicrous.

It is also completely out of step with previous punishments handed out – or not handed out – by the NRL to trainers who got involved with the play.

In 2016 when Alfie Langer directly interfered with the game, totally in contravention of the rules, the NRL did absolutely nothing. No fine and no suspension whatsoever.

A few weeks later when then-Souths trainer Kurt Wrigley manhandled then-Panthers player Tyrone Peachey to get the ball – again totally in contravention of the rules – the NRL quietly suspended Wrigley for one match with no accompanying fine at all. Hear that again: Wrigley manhandled a player to get the ball and the NRL issued no monetary fine whatsoever.

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Then, in the biggest game of 2019, the Roosters’ orange shirt trainer Travis Touma was on the field in only the third minute of play and – against the direct standing orders of the ground manager – remains behind the Roosters line for the fifth tackle play. The ball is charged down and ricochets into Touma who bats it away. The NRL neither suspends Touma nor fines the Roosters.

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Now Andrew Abdo – who has been at NRL HQ since 2013 – has fined the Raiders $10,000 for their trainer’s extremely minimal contact.

Mr Abdo, with all due respect, that is a total crock of shit.

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However, I’m just screaming into the void. As has become all too apparent in the last decade, the NRL is effectively a private company and answerable to no one. The employees of this closed club – and who knows how most of them got their positions — can do as they please as a result.

That includes this sort of totally inconsistent, disproportionate and incompetent ruling.

They can do as they like with only an occasional scapegoating happening to the unlucky few. There is no ability to appeal to an independent authority or to have a person’s suitability for their role assessed.

But please know this Andrew Abdo, your handling of this matter has been pathetic and it totally deserves our derision and opprobrium.