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Leniu to face judiciary over alleged 'monkey' racial slur, heated hotel confrontation revealed, Tuqiri blasts Robbo

Spencer Leniu in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
4th March, 2024
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Dual-code international Lote Tuqiri has accused Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson of “gaslighting” Ezra Mam after the Brisbane five-eighth alleged he was the victim of racial abuse from Spencer Leniu.

On Monday, Leniu was referred straight to the NRL judiciary after the allegation came to light following the competition’s season-opening games in Las Vegas.

Mam claimed the Roosters prop labelled him a “monkey” during one of several flashpoints in the game.

Robinson was forced to confront the incident in his post-game press conference, saying: “He (Mam) obviously made the complaint, but that doesn’t mean it’s right … It will go through the formal process, as it should”.

But that response drew the ire of former Broncos winger Tuqiri, who posted on social media site X: “If a player says he’s been racially vilified on a footy field, it’s happened! You can mask it and say it’s in the heat of the battle, etc etc.

“But I don’t get how Trent Robinson sits in a post match press conference and accuses Ezra of not being right. ‘Doesn’t mean it’s right’ is some sort of gaslighting rubbish I didn’t think would come out of Trent Robinson’s mouth.

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“Especially after the great way he handled Latrell’s abuse from his own fans last year. I’m behind Ezra all the way calling this stuff out.”

The incident came in a brutal but entertaining win for the Roosters to start the season, in front of 40,746 fans at Allegiant Stadium.

“It was really disappointing to be talking about something of this nature,” NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said on Sunday. 

“There is no place for discrimination of any kind. We take it very, very seriously. 

“I can’t talk about the specifics of what happened last night. The player involved involved has been charged and then referred directly to the judiciary. 

“We will respect that process and won’t make comments.”

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ARL Commission chair Peter V’landys had earlier vowed that heavy sanctions will be coming the Roosters prop’s way if found guilty.

“We certainly will not tolerate any form of racism … full stop,” V’landys told NewsCorp.

“At the same time, the player has to be given due process and natural justice so it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further. But we take these matters seriously.”

Latrell Mitchell has also demanded the NRL take action, posting to Instagram: “I stand with you Bala. (The NRL) better deal with this shit”.

It has been reported Broncos players confronted Leniu in the hours following the alleged incident, with Pat Carrigan and Kotoni Staggs involved in a verbal exchange.

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The teams were both staying on the same floor of the Hilton in Resorts World.

Indigenous star Mam could be heard telling referee Adam Gee, “He called me a monkey”, as other Broncos players also say, “He called him a monkey”.

Gee said he did not hear the alleged slur himself, and asked Mam if he wanted to make a formal complaint, to which Mam responded: “Yes I do”.

When placed on report by Gee, Leniu can be heard saying to the referee: “Why would I say that?”.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 02: Spencer Leniu of the Roosters rusn the ball during the round one NRL match between Sydney Roosters and Brisbane Broncos at Allegiant Stadium, on March 02, 2024, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Spencer Leniu in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Leniu told Triple M after the match that he was not “worried at all”, and that the incident was “just fun and games on the field, that’s it”.

But Broncos coach Kevin Walters said Mam was certain a racial slur had been made.

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“He’s pretty upset in there,” Walters said. “He’s adamant (there was a slur), but we’ll leave it with the NRL. They’re looking at it.

“We certainly support Ezra and our player and everything that’s around that.”

Broncos captain Adam Reynolds said he personally had not heard the slur, but was shocked by the allegation.

“In this day and age, you wouldn’t think this is still out there,” Reynolds said. “I was well away from it. But we support our player. He is pretty upset in there. 

“We certainly don’t stand for racism and we’ll support Ezra and get around him, make sure he’s alright.”

Robinson wants Roosters to return to Vegas in 2025

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Trent Robinson has made clear he wants the Sydney Roosters to return to Las Vegas next year as the race to play in the 2025 double-header begins.

The NRL’s travelling roadshow will start flying out of the USA on Monday, with small pockets forced to wait until Tuesday to being their return home.

But they leave feeling buoyant with the league’s historic push into America, after 40,706 fans turned out for the Allegiant Stadium double-header.

Players compared the atmosphere to that of finals football, while locals spoken to by AAP were struck by the “ferociousness” and pace of the sport.

The NRL will wait on television figures before declaring how successful the venture was, and must find a way to connect new fans with games on a weekly basis.

But next year is already on the agenda.

The NRL’s 17 club bosses convened in Vegas on Friday for a CEOs meeting, and were all in the chairman’s lounge behind the posts for Saturday night’s games.

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Broadly speaking, there is a desire from most clubs to feature in the event, and it is expected all will over the course of the five-year deal to play in Sin City.

But the clubs involved in Saturday’s matches are also keen to return.

Roosters chairman Nick Politis and Manly owner Scott Penn have each signalled their intention, after giving up home games for the Vegas venture in 2024.

And while it remains to be seen what impact the travel has on players this season, Robinson made clear he was more than keen to return in 2025.

“I think it’s absolutely fair that we get the chance to come back again next year,” Robinson quipped. 

“We’ve got to export our game and Nick’s never been shy and saying, we feel like we represent the game of rugby league well.

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“If that’s a choice, then then we would like to do that, because we represent Sydney and it can represent the world stage. 

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 02: Joseph Manu of the Roosters runs the ballduring the round one NRL match between Sydney Roosters and Brisbane Broncos at Allegiant Stadium, on March 02, 2024, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Joseph Manu runs the ball at Allegiant Stadium. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

“It’s a really strong brand in the game. And if that goes in that way where that’s open, then we’d love to do it. 

“If it doesn’t, and it rotates, then we definitely understand that as well.”

The NRL are also desperate to use this season’s matches as a launching point, with the potential to invite English teams and play women’s fixtures in the future.

Speculation about taking Magic Round to Vegas has been floated in recent weeks, but that still appears some way off.

“This is like a step in the right direction and an important milestone, but we want to build off it,” NRL CEO Andrew Abdo told AAP. “We want to keep growing this and make this even bigger. 

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“This is different to other sports bringing exhibition games. I think the Americans respect that. We’ve had a lot of good feedback on that.”

with AAP

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