The Roar
The Roar


'Line in the sand' moment: Hynes calls on NRL to show strong anti-racism stance if Leniu found guilty of 'monkey' slur

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5th March, 2024

Cronulla halfback Nicho Hynes has thrown his support behind Broncos five-eighth Ezra Mam, urging the NRL to take a hardline stance on racial abuse in the game.

Mam touched down in Brisbane on Tuesday after he was the victim of an alleged racial slur by Sydney Roosters prop Spencer Leniu in the NRL season-opening games in Las Vegas.

Brisbane coach Kevin Walters spoke of his pride at his team’s support for Mam after Leniu was referred straight to the judiciary amid a claim he called Brisbane’s No.6 a “monkey” in the Roosters’ 20-10 win.

Mam also received Hynes’ backing, and although the Sharks playmaker was quick to stress Leniu had not been found guilty, he urged the NRL to use the much-publicised incident as a “line in the sand”.

“I’m not just trying to put it all on Spencer, (but) I feel like there needs to be a line in the sand,” Hynes said on Tuesday.

“This will be the moment that it happens. Look, it has to happen.


“Any person in the game, if they get racially vilified by a spectator, they’d want to go hard at them, so I feel like that has to happen with a player.”

He said such allegations were particularly triggering for the country’s Indigenous community.

Nicholas Hynes of the Indigenous All Stars makes a break to score a try during the 2023 NRL All Stars match between Indigenous All Stars and Maori All Stars at Rotorua International Stadium

(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

“Back in the day our elders did experience a hell of a lot of it, and that’s the hardest thing now, is that old trauma gets brought up and that’s what’s really upsetting,” Hynes said.

After the match between the Roosters and Broncos, Leniu exchanged words with several Brisbane players as they passed each other at the Hilton at Resorts World in Las Vegas.

Walters said the players had shown great support for proud Torres Strait Islander Mam, who he praised for standing up for himself.

“That is part of being a Bronco,” Walters said.


“All clubs support their peers and their mates when they are under pressure and have an incident happen that is just not tolerable.

“We are a tight group at the Broncos and we support each other in every way. (Racial slurs) are not tolerated anymore in life or in the community. Rugby league is part of the community.

“Ezra has every right to be upset and stand up for himself as an Indigenous player. The NRL now are dealing with it, and we are dealing with it in-house with our player Ezra.

“We are getting around him. He is OK, but it was a tough night for him post-game. There is a lot of support around him.”

Walters would not be drawn on what penalty Leniu should receive if found guilty. “It is the NRL’s policy now to deal with what has happened,” he said.

“We respect everything the NRL are doing and will leave it in their hands to make a good decision on the outcome.”


Walters said Mam would “definitely” play in round two against South Sydney on March 14. “That is still a week and a half away, but the club will support him and get around him every way that we need to in order that he can play Thursday week,” Walters said.