Walker stood down, NRL vows no repeat of 'terrible' off-season

  • Rugby
  • Friday, 01 Mar 2019

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Manly Sea Eagles centre Dylan Walker became the second player to be suspended under the National Rugby League's new "no fault stand down" policy on Friday, as CEO Todd Greenberg vowed there would be no repeat of the competition's off-season of shame.

Walker, who was charged for an alleged domestic violence-related assault on his fiancee, had been stood down indefinitely while his case remained before the courts, the NRL said.

St. George Illawarra forward Jack de Belin was the first player stood down in the new regime announced on Thursday, in the wake of a litany of unsavoury incidents that have tarnished the NRL in recent months.

De Belin, 27, pleaded not guilty last month to a sexual assault charge.

A string of other NRL players have recently been charged with criminal offences, sparking a public outcry and accusations that the league has not done enough to rein in off-field misconduct.

The NRL had previously given players with criminal charges a presumption of innocence and allowed them to turn out for their clubs.

But with fans aghast and sponsorship under threat, the league declared it would automatically stand down players accused of crimes carrying a maximum jail term of 11 years or more.

Those charged with lower level crimes can be suspended at the league's discretion.

Walker pleaded not guilty to his assault charge after his fiancee retracted her statement to police, but police have pushed ahead with the charge against the 24-year-old.

Facing a media conference for the second time in two days, NRL CEO Greenberg announced further penalties for player misbehaviour and club punishments for salary cap breaches.

"This off-season has been a terrible one and it cannot and will not ever be repeated," Greenberg said in Sydney.

New Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs recruit Dylan Napa was fined 10 percent of his 2019 salary after he appeared in lewd videos leaked online.

The 26-year-old escaped suspension as the videos were filmed five years ago and he did not think they would be made public, Greenberg said.

"The videos I have seen are gross, juvenile and disrespectful. If there was a grading in our system for stupidity, this behaviour would be at the very top end,” Greenberg said.

North Queensland Cowboys prop Scott Bolton was suspended for 10 weeks and fined five percent of his 2019 salary after pleading guilty to a charge of common assault over an incident involving a woman in a Sydney bar last year.

The NRL offered to halve the penalty if Bolton agreed to address the captains and senior players of all other clubs in the 16-team league as part of player education.

The NRL said it had refused a request by Sydney club Wests Tigers to register new recruit Zane Musgrove, who was charged with alleged indecent assault of a woman at a bar in November.

The club was also fined over A$1 million (534,992 pounds) for salary cap breaches and for failing to disclose a contractual arrangement with a player.

The 2016 champions Cronulla Sharks were fined A$1.25 million for a number of offences, including salary cap breaches and for continuing to engage with former coach Shane Flanagan while he was suspended in 2014 for his role in an illegal supplements program.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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