SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 16: Manase Fainu of the Sea Eagles celebrates scoring a try during the round 14 NRL match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Lottoland on June 16, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The Rugby League Players’ Association has further opposed the league’s ‘no-fault’ stand down policy, believing the newly introduced measure is failing to address the right issue when it comes to off-field player behaviour.

The NRL introduced the rule this season following the “summer of hell”, hoping it would calm a number of sponsors and fight the increase of off-field incidents involving league players, but the results have failed to put the intimidating trend to a halt.

David Fifita, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Sam Burgess, Josh Dugan and Manase Fainu have all been recently involved in separate incidents and altercations that have added to the league’s woes and stained image.

The RLPA is currently in mediation talks with the league, claiming the initiation of the stand down policy rule breached the terms of their collective bargaining agreement.

If both the league and its players’ union fail to find an agreement, the matter will be sent to arbitration, with a resolution expected to come before the 2020 season.

“If you look at any system around the world that focuses on a really penal approach, it’s not as effective as other systems that focus on education, rehab and support in reducing incidents linked to human behaviour,” said RLPA CEO Ian Prendergast.

“Philosophically, we want to align our interests more with the NRL because at the moment there is a disconnect. From our point of view, the players are frustrated with the relationship that currently exists between the RLPA and the NRL off the back of last season and the fact we’re working through this dispute.

“Our focus is protecting what we’ve agreed to under the CBA and the players’ contract to ensure the NRL can’t ride roughshod over that and make changes that are inconsistent with those things.

“We’ve always maintained rules, regulations and policies aren’t going to shift player behaviour. We’re disappointed as anyone when off-field incidents occur, particularly around how much we’re investing in addressing player behaviour.

“Where we are not as aligned with the NRL is how you shift that in a meaningful way long term. Yes, we absolutely support appropriate sanctions being handed down which need to include measures that address the actual root of the behaviour so a player can learn from the situation they find themselves and change their behaviour over time.”

Senior officials of the NRL are believed to be disappointed with the union’s stand following the latest string of off-field incidents. The governing body stand by its decision to introduce the no-fault rule to protect the league’s image, while the players association claim there should be a stronger focus on education and prevention.

“Particularly when you think about the demographics and how far back some of these players are coming from, there are a lot of players who have suffered adverse childhood experiences in their formative years that contributes to their behaviour,” Prendergast said.

“We’ve now got research and evidence-based recommendations we want to implement through the wellbeing program that aren’t being supported by the NRL.

“Our frustration is based on the talk in relation to how much money the game has lost in not being able to secure additional sponsors or fans due to off-field behaviour.

“But the reluctance to invest further to give these players the kind of training they need to cope with the demands placed on them through their standards and behaviour (is frustrating).

“You think about how much the game is investing in the integrity unit and a lot of that is quite reactionary in investigating matters.

“This really needs to be a whole of game approach. We can’t do this one-out, we’re only a small organisation compared to the resources the NRL and clubs have.”

20 COMMENTS

  1. I think there needs to be a “punishment” deterrent for players where found guilty, but I’ve always said this so called “no fault” stand down policy is totally unfair and everyone should be presumed innocent and free to play on until judged otherwise by the courts and not by the NRL KANGAROO COURT.

  2. ManWar 78 – That is exactly what the no fault stand down rule is – innocent until proven guilty, that is why it says “No Fault” because it is presuming innocence. If found guilty there would no doubt be repercussions from the NRL to be faced but at the time it is applied it assumes innocence. The rule is triggered automatically when a player is charged by the police of a serious crime. That charge, whilst suggestive of guilt is not a presumption of guilt. Any conditions applied by the police to go with that charge like reporting to a police station or even imprisonment is similarly not a presumption of guilt it is simply a stage in a legal process and the NFSC is simply a similar stage in an NRL process.

    Something like this needs years to work and it is more about protecting the brand than it is about punishment after all if a substantial jail term (which has to be the possibility for the NFSC to take automatic effect) isn’t going to deter then nothing the NRL can meter out is ever going to be.

    I think it is a bit rich the players association claiming the rule isn’t working after less than a year in place and the application to (3 ?) players. De Belin hasn’t even been tried yet and he was the first person to which the rule was applied. This claim is quite frankly ridiculous and I cannot see the NRL changing it anytime soon.

  3. Rucky I understand how the policy works but as far as I’m concerned, telling someone they can’t play until they are cleared by the courts is NOT presuming innocence.

  4. Manly continue to take all the Parramatta Junior discards, even those let go for poor behaviour, just like Manase Fainu, the lower grades are full of them (along with coaching staff) at Manly, I guess that is what happens when you don’t produce too many of your own juniors.

  5. “telling someone they can’t play until they are cleared by the courts is NOT presuming innocence.”

    but
    putting someone in prison awaiting trial
    stipulating that someone cannot visit a certain place (eg Newcastle in the Hayne case)
    stipulating that someone cannot travel overseas by confiscating their passport (again Hayne)

    whilst awaiting trial are all situations that a player can find them selves in and yet they still have the presumption of innocence.

  6. To be charged with serious crime the police and courts are saying you are guilty until proven innocent.

    Why else do people spend time in jail awaiting trial, or are released on bail for huge sums of money, or have passports confiscated, or have restraining orders against them.

    If a lawyer or barrister cannot prove a persons innocence then jail is the punishment.

    The NRL and the justice system can say it anyway they like. But a person goes to court Guilty otherwise there would not even be a trial, and can walk free if they prove their innocence. If they do not prove their innocence, then immediately they are removed from the courts to the jail system.

    The NRL must take the same stance as the law of the land does, hence a player is stood down by the Nrl until the vourts have finalized the matter.

  7. @manwarts
    oh yeah i remember you were so vocal about the JDB standown 🙄🥱
    fainu is out for 2020, get used to it and hope the rest of the squad can finish the off season without bashing their partners or stealing money like they did last year.

  8. i wonder if they’re will be a cort case in there hometown because he has meny relos and there kids can come.

  9. Rucky, I think you make a very good point. I was a bit of a fencesitter when they brought it in, but your arguement makes sense.
    BenH, I disagree. Courts have to prove someone guilty, but they have the right/responsibility to ensure that person/s appear in court, and to the protect the public in the interim, because they may be guilty.
    I think you’ll find “not guilty” and “proven innocent” can have very different meanings/definitions.

  10. The NRL do exactly to players as Australia does to people charged with criminal activity.

    After a game some players are charged with breaking the laws of the game, how many players are exonerated at the judicary?
    When a player is charged 95% of the time they are guilty and suspended. The player is not charged for doing nothing.

    Its the same in life, if a person is charged, most times they are guilty.
    This myth that you are innocent until proven guilty is just a play on words.
    Every person charged to appear in court must prove their innocence. Detectives and police do not hand out charges for the fun of it. Once charged you are guilty according to the evidence of the police and the courts Must deal with the matter.

    Therefore the NRL take the exact same point as I have desribed, by standing players down until they have proven their innocence. Thats just how the reality of the matter is.

    Like I said it is a myth that you are innocent until proven guilty. A false belief. The lady that had her baby killed by a dingo spent three years in a NT prison and waited 35 years before a judge beleived her story of innocence, which she did proved eventualy. While dingos were attacking adult’s and killed a 10 year old boy on Fraser Island during that long period of proving her inocence.
    People need to understand a jury and judge holds your freedom in their hands. If you do not prove to them your innocence then your freedom as charge guilty by the police, some times years before the court proceedings, then those people take your freedom away.

    The bottom line is if you are charge for a crime, then you are guilty until you present your facts convincing the court of your innocence. Most times Detectives have done their home work and have the charged person cornered.

  11. @ rucky, Just because the police charge you does not mean you are guilty. There are numerous cases of people being charged and then being proven not guilty. And @ angryeagle aka naveenisdog aka brisydragqueen, even though I gave it to you about your player JDB, as paybacks for your attacks on our innocent mr walker, I was always a critic of this dodgy stand down policy from day one.

  12. Well Eelsalmighty every now and then but not very often, innocent people are jailed and guilty people get off away with the crime.

    Most people except die hard Manly fans, agree the wrong verdict was handed out to the hair pulling wife basher Walker. The two eye witnesses and the wifes original statement to police was disregarded by the judge. On the grounds that the wife changed her story so to protect the large contract money she would have missed out on her shopping day if Walker the woman basher was found guilty.

    The bottom line in this case is she had a self interest financially if she did not alter her original statement to police. Walker is a woman basher and she is a liar.

  13. “Just because the police charge you does not mean you are guilty.”

    Absolutely. You are innocent until the prosecution can prove you guilty and make no mistake, if they fail to do that then you walk free because you are innocent. You do not need to prove a thing however most people would try to mount the strongest defence they can. Mounting a defence is very different to proving innocence which you don’t need to do.

    However, once you are charged by police and up until your trial, you may have a number of constraints placed upon you. These constraints are intended to ensure that 1) there is no further risk to the public from your actions and 2) That you do not try to pervert the course of justice.

    The NRL in their NFSP effectively place a similar constraint on the accused player (of not playing) because they believe that there is a possibility of the accused playing might damage their business. Since the player suffers no financial loss nor anything else provided within the players contract then the NRL cannot be accused of any form of deprivation.

    A player’s contract does not guarantee that he will play in any given match. Who plays is a coach/club/nrl choice at the end of the day and is not a right. That is why Debelin was always going to fail in his challenge of the rule – he never lost anything that he had just what he might have expected.

  14. BenH, agreed, hence the “I think you’ll find “not guilty” and “proven innocent” can have very different meanings/definitions.”

  15. Rucky a person indeed when charged most defiantly has to do everything to prove their case. If a charged person enters court unprepared then the prosecutor will run rings around the charged person. A charged person must convince the jury of their innocence with medical and scientific evidence. If they just sit there and not do a thing then they will be thrown into jail.

  16. “That is why Debelin was always going to fail in his challenge of the rule – he never lost anything that he had just what he might have expected.” AGREE. JDB certainly lost his SOO spot because of it.

  17. …….And the financial rewards that go with SOO selection. Plus other rep teams. Of course there’s no guarantee of being picked but he would certainly have been more than a 50/50 chance if he was available to be picked.

  18. “If a charged person enters court unprepared then the prosecutor will run rings around the charged person.”

    Maybe but said prosecutor still has to prove it. It may be easier for the prosecutor because he can run rings round you but he still has to prove it. Being shown up for being a fool in court does not make you guilty. Unless the prosecutor can produce evidence that shows you did something beyond reasonable doubt then you are not guilty period.

    “he would certainly have been more than a 50/50 chance if he was available to be picked”

    That is probably true but as far as the courts are concerned, there is no guarantee of being selected therefore you have not been deprived of anything. Debelin might have won the lotto but he didn’t buy a ticket because he was busy in court. He can’t then sue the court because he might have won.

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