Paul Vaughan to the Bulldogs? Cool, see you in Round 9 of 2022

By Joe Frost / Editor

I’ll start with a question: how can you serve a suspension if you’re not able to be picked for a team?

That’s the central issue I take with reports that Paul Vaughan, who signed with Canterbury last week, may be allowed to play for his new club as soon as Round 1 of next season.

Specifically, AAP said: “the Bulldogs can push to have the eight games missed at the end of this season after being axed by the Dragons count towards Vaughan’s ban of the same length.”

Obviously Vaughan has copped a massive punishment for his barbecue, which was the second COVID breach he had committed in the past 12 or so months and, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, was a third off-field offence, which gave the Dragons the ammunition they needed to tear up his contract.

Vaughan’s deal at the Red V for 2022 was rumoured to have been some $800,000, so when added to the $50,000 fine he copped from the NRL and however much he stood to earn over the final rounds of this year, having his teammates around for some beers and snags probably cost the prop more than a million bucks.

Sure, he’ll recoup some of that with his new deal at the Dogs, but this is a huge financial penalty for the former Test prop – it was penance enough and I take no issue with him having a chance to rekindle his career in the NRL.

(Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

But he shouldn’t be allowed to pull on a blue and white jumper until Round 9 of next year, because part of his punishment from the NRL was an eight-match suspension and he hasn’t served a single match yet.

Because, as of July 6, he’s not part of the competition. And, again, how can you serve a suspension if you’re not able to be picked for a team?

What’s more, this isn’t me being finicky, it’s seemingly the NRL’s new method of serving punishments for off-field issues.

On June 8 this year, the NRL announced that Kotoni Staggs was being fined $20,000 and would serve a two-match ban after he “engaged in disreputable conduct at a public venue” in April.

The Broncos centre had not featured at all in 2021, having been recovering from a long-term injury, but the release said Staggs “will not be permitted to return to the NRL before Round 16”.

Basically, time spent on the sidelines injured was not to count towards his suspension.

Then last week, after he made his infamous trip out onto a balcony, the NRL announced James Roberts would be fined and miss one game “to commence when he is eligible for selection”.

So even though the Tiger was already missing games due to being in quarantine, that time was immaterial.

(Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

It’s a system that’s got its holes – if you’re a club with an off-field problem child who suffers a long-term injury, you’d be inclined to maybe fudge the numbers on their return date just in case – but I’m a fan.

What I don’t understand is being selective with when it is implemented. Why do the Broncos and Tigers lose their guys, but the Bulldogs don’t?

As for the argument Vaughan is doing the time as we speak – he’s not injured or in quarantine – I’d point to the much older yet arguably more similar example of Ben Barba.

Following the Sharks’ 2016 grand final win, their mercurial fullback tested positive for cocaine, which led to him being banned by the NRL for 12 matches, as well as released by his club.

Then on May 24, 2017 – just prior to Round 15 of the English Super League season – Barba signed a deal with St Helens.

However, the Merseyside club were unable to unleash their marquee man upon the competition until the end of August, as Barba had not served any of his 12 matches out – how could he have, when he hadn’t been signed to play in a rugby league competition.

For the record, while he did play rugby union for Toulon in between his time with the Sharks and St Helens, the French club sacked him on May 10, which was after Round 13 of the Super League season, but his ban still did not take effect until he had actually signed with the Saints.

(Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

St Helens tried to fight this on the basis that Barba’s off-field issues wouldn’t have led to an actual ban in their competition, but the RFL decided to uphold the suspension, with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting at the time that the NRL was “likely to take a dim view” had they not.

So a misbehaving NRL player can’t serve time while they are injured, nor while they are playing another code, and they have to see out a ban even if they’re playing rugby league on the other side of the world.

Yet apparently we’ll entertain a serial COVID-dodger playing for the Dogs as soon as it’s convenient for them because… why, exactly?

Paul Vaughan is welcome to play in the NRL in 2022 but not until he serves his eight matches.

If Canterbury want to start paying him a wage this week, it’s fair to count the final five rounds of this season and see him suit up in Round 4, 2022.

But since they’re waiting until next year for his contract to take effect, we should not see him play until Round 9 next year.

To round things out, I’ll finish with a question: what are the odds Paul Vaughan is named in Trent Barrett’s side for the opening round of 2022?

The Crowd Says:



Roar Guru

My view was based on repeated behaviour, not knee jerk. I haven't characterised the entire list of St George participants this way. I didn't say ado carr Mitchell would laugh. So maybe I'm not human and hence not part of everyone. I didn't say he won't care, I'm incredibly sceptical it will be enough to change his pattern of behaviour. Why does "everyone" think that the only two reactions are caring and permanently changing behaviours or complete ambivalence. Yes, he doesn't have f-you money. It has a meaningful impact on his life. But this also isn't a rock bottom style outcome, I'm sceptical that he changes when another team picked him up before the suspension is over. Even if he does, the contract makes no sense from the dogs perspective.



Roar Guru

110%! Oh you got me, that's more than the 100% wrong you still are. It's that kind of brainstorming that leads you to associate Fainu with Walker, Scott or anyone else charged with an offence that carries less than the 11yr standard as set by the NRL. Everything below that is discretionary. Get that through your head.


no one in particular

Roar Guru




Roar Guru

The uncomplicated solution isn’t for the dogs to sign him for the 8 weeks he’s out this year. Contract value $1. Given he’s not playing he probably would owe the club change. Then an upgrade in 2022 to whatever. Doesn’t seem that hard. And as for “market value” concerns - what is the going rate for a non playing prop with a mud reputation?



Roar Rookie

Great article Joe, I'm with you. Not because I think Vaughn needs to be punished further; he has obviously suffered severely as a result of his stupidity. However, like yourself, I think he needs to serve his ban when on a list purely for the sake of consistency. Being dropped from a club list is not serving a league-sanctioned break from competition. I understand Paul or his new club may appeal the decision, which is of course their right, but if the NRL cares about following processes consistently and honouring both the spirit and letter of the law, then he will serve his ban on a club list. If that increases his potential penalty, then that is genuinely unfortunate for both Paul and the Bulldogs. But if Vaughn wants to know who is responsible for him being in that position, well, it's not the NRL, or the Dragons, or anyone else - the person responsible is the bloke he sees whenever he looks in a mirror.



Roar Rookie

So...if he had served 4 weeks and then the Dragons sacked him you'd still argue that he should have to serve the first 4 games after whenever he signs a new contract? Even though his termination is a separate and additional punishment on top of his suspension albeit within the rights of his employer.



Roar Rookie

How do you suspend a player who isn't registered? Or do you mean if the Dragons had sacked him before his tribunal hearing?




Vaughn’s punishment is excessive and ridiculous


Tom G

Roar Rookie

Amen to that.



Roar Rookie

He also suffered a way larger penalty than most people would suffer for what he did. This has cost him the better half of a million dollars. There is always a knee jerk reaction to say that footballers never learn from their mistakes. Some don’t, but most do. Everybody said that Mitchell and Addo-Carr would laugh at their punishments, but they haven’t put a foot wrong since. And why do people think that footballers don’t care about penalties of tens of thousands of dollars? They aren’t billionaires - most of them aren’t even earning doctor money.


Forty Twenty

Roar Rookie

You are 110% wrong. The NRL described Scotts charges as extremely serious because they were. They chose to stand down May and Walker who were also below the 11 year threshold. If you still don't understand that the NRL allowed Scott to play despite even the most one eyed Raiders supporters thinking he was gone then I can't help you. They thought he wasn't guilty and they were correct. They also claimed they didn't make judgements on guilt or innocence. Their claim is a lie. This one is simple. They never explained why they allowed Scott to play because they would incriminate themselves. Instead of playing god and allowing Scott to play and denying Walker the same right despite being not guilty, just let the legal system decide in all cases.


Big Mig

Roar Rookie

Pretty sure Tommy can walk on water too...


no one in particular

Roar Guru

Stewart was suspended because Gallop was a blundering fool Still is


Tom G

Roar Rookie

By Gallop, the goose supposedly for being drunk at the sponsor function that was meant to be a prequel to the bogus sex assault charge. By implication the NRL cast a huge shadow of doubt over Stewart’s innocence. He was punished for having too much to drink and catching a cab home and had to wait for months to clear his name in court.


no one in particular

Roar Guru

Also, of all the players the Dogs have signed for next season, Burton is the only one without any off-field "indiscretion". Hopefully the club becomes Gus' culture and not more of Barretts


no one in particular

Roar Guru

What the club did and what the NRL did are separate punishments and should be treated as such. He has contract with a club, so he cannot serve the weeks while he has no club But the NRL has a history of letting these sort of punishments being served concurrently, so he'll be lacing up the boots in Rd 1. The Dogs should have signed him for the last 8 weeks of this season



Roar Rookie

classic ))



Roar Rookie

I was under the impression Vaughan was to serve the suspension when he was next registered with a club and fair enough. Now having read all the comments on here I'm happy for him to play first up next year. He has suffered quite a bit financially and emotionally. After all that's happened hopefully he has learnt from this whole episode.



Roar Rookie

the Australian Character used to be about playing sport tough but fair / withing the rules, being anti authoratarian if something was deemed to be unjust, helping your mates / community (see bushfires) etc. All we see now is a bunch of entitled primma donna athletes who think they are above the rules, cheating / winning at all costs (Australian cricket along with any drug cheat), no respect for the community - everyone is doing it tough with civid - what is the big picture here?



Roar Rookie

Yeah, looks like they are the majority.

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