Rugby league just can’t get out of its own way.
A day after the sport was rocked by news NRL stars Josh Addo-Carr and Latrell Mitchell had not only broken social distancing regulations, but posted proof of their indiscretions to social media, the league’s thumping headache was made even worse by a fresh scandal.
Nine News revealed photos showing Penrith and NSW halfback Nathan Cleary also flaunting social distancing rules in place to limit the spread of coronavirus.
He was pictured with at least five females, who reportedly visited his house briefly on Anzac Day.
According to Nine’s Danny Weidler, the playmaker is “very, very apologetic about what has happened”, but no amount of saying sorry will stop Australia from condemning the all-too-common theme of league players stepping out of line.
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Nathan Cleary was caught breaking the rules on Anzac Day. Picture: Channel 9Source:Channel 9
Former Panthers powerbroker, ex-NSW coach and Nine commentator Phil Gould said while the circumstances behind Cleary’s breach were different to that of Mitchell and Addo-Carr, that shouldn’t earn him any sympathy.
“No excuse. Serious breach. Granted Nathan says the incident was not planned, which obviously differs from the Josh/Latrell situation, however, players need to be vigilant,” Gould tweeted. “They need to protect themselves, their teammates, and the game. For mine, blanket penalties should apply.”
Gould said on Monday Mitchell and Addo-Carr should be suspended for the entire season, and he agreed the same penalty should apply to Cleary when it was put to him by a Twitter user.
He also said while the intent between the two cases was different, the “stupidity” and “seriousness” was not.
Absolutely. It's irresponsible. https://t.co/NW9NzlxCKq
Perhaps in the intent. But not in the stupidity or seriousness. They are under strict instructions. Their livelihood, and the livelihood of their teammates, depend on it. https://t.co/pIizW2iONv
The NRL has announced it plans to restart its season on May 28 after the campaign was suspended at the conclusion of Round 2. The league needs to work with state governments and relevant health authorities to make sure it has the green light to go ahead, under the proviso it can guarantee all players and staff will follow strict isolation measures.
Incidents like those we’ve seen this week place the entire future of the game in jeopardy. Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman Peter V’landys has said during this crisis it’s up to the players to behave responsibly and ensure the season can continue, to save the code from financial ruin.
“There will be sanctions. We’ve got no option. There must be a deterrent because one reckless act will bring down an entire competition and the livelihoods that come with that,” V’landys said recently.
But as examples of players behaving badly stack up, there remains doubt as to whether the country’s footy stars can be trusted to uphold the necessary standards required to get back on the field.
It’s a point Gould was keen to make clear.
What I do know is that the more instances made public, the less likely it will be that Govt will permit a restart of competition. The players were warned. They were given strict guidelines. They have caused a huge issue for the code. Huge ramifications for their future careers.
FOOTY STARS BLASTED FOR ‘SELFISHNESS, ARROGANCE’
The rest of Australia laid the boot into the “selfishness” of players as social media reacted to rugby league’s latest black eye.
Many are feeling sorry for the NRL, which has been working tirelessly since coronavirus wreaked havoc to build a path back towards a season restart, only to see its efforts undermined by the very stars whose income and livelihoods the governing body is trying to protect.
In response to Cleary’s scandal, former Nine journalist and presenter Chris Urquhart tweeted: “Another one. Why should the NRL be trusted to run a competition this year, let alone start it on May 28?”
Channel 7 sports presenter Jim Wilson wrote: “Draw a line in the sand, dumb and arrogant behaviour. The majority are towing the line but for those with no regard for the law, suspend them. End of story.”
Every time a player stuffs up like this, there's less chance of a return of NRL, less chance of a return of community footy, less chance of a return to work for those in off-field club roles, less chance of any normal winter sporting season.
It's just bloody dumb https://t.co/2bC1wHFaqo
JAC and LM haven’t hurt or offended anyone.
Yet their crime is worse IMO: the type breathtaking arrogance and selfishness that puts others at risk.
This is about attitude. For supposed team players, their attitude is pathetic.
They don’t deserve the privilege of playing.
Now Nathan Cleary!!! These #NRL players shoudnt get their wages for the year if they cost peers rounds of footy or put the restart in doubt. I didn't think theyd all abide by the SD laws but the stupidity really is mind boggling @PenrithPanthers @10NewsFirst @10Daily
The NRL is the gift that just keeps on giving…
Every #nrl player fined for not following #Covid_19australia rules should be benched for the season. @NRLNEWS @NRLcom
NRL: We're confident we have put the right measures in place in order to resume our competition in late May.
Nathan Cleary: pic.twitter.com/3w1NU2igNK
It’s pretty clear footballers can’t be trusted to follow the rules. Doesn’t instil me with much faith they’ll be able to follow the strict bio security guidelines needed to restart the comp. https://t.co/etfhAZoxtV
The Panthers released a short statement after news of Cleary’s controversy broke, saying: “Penrith Panthers acknowledges the photos of Nathan Cleary being shared by the media in regards to social distancing regulations.
“The club was first made aware of the photos on Tuesday morning and immediately forwarded them to the NRL.
“The matter is now in the hands of the NRL and the club will be making no further comment at this stage.”
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