UPDATED: Landmark day for Rugby League as ARLC implements ‘no fault’ policy
It was a landmark day for rugby league as the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) met today to form a historic “no fault” policy in a bid to “rebuild and protect the game”.
Under the new policy, ARLC Chairman Peter Beattie announced players charged with criminal offences which may result in jail time of 11 years or more will be stood down immediately.
This meant St George Illawarra Dragons forward Jack de Belin has been stood down effective immediately while he fights aggravated sexual assault charges.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg will also have discretion on matters which involve players charged with criminal offences that carry a maximum sentence of 11 years imprisonment – particularly when they involve violence against women and children.
On a historic day for the sport after an off-season which yielded 17 off-field incidents, Beattie announced the new policy as “setting a benchmark and standard to protect rugby league” in a bid to “rebuild the reputation” of the game.
Former Penrith coach Anthony Griffin told Halftime with James Willis he was a fan of the Commission’s decision, acknowledging player welfare as a key reason behind it.
“I think it’s sensible,” Griffin said.
“Particularly with the case in hand with Jack de Belin and I mean that for everyone, for the player himself, the club and the game in general which is the main thing.
“I think it’s in the best interests of Jack de Belin, I don’t know Jack, but his photo’s plastered across the front and back page of the paper, he’s on every newsreel at the moment and the charge of aggravated sexual assault is a serious one.
“I think he would struggle to commit himself fully mentally to play rugby league at the moment.
“For his own welfare I think he needs some time to consume it with his family and fight the charges which is probably the most important thing in his life at the moment.
“So from a coaching point of view I could understand that maybe he should be at training and still have that bond with his teammates and his friends, but from a playing point of view I think it’s sensible, no matter what the NRL say.
“I think from his end he might need to take a back seat.”
The decision to stand down de Belin was the worst kept secret over the last week in the NRL with “unanimous support” from the other club Chairs for a new policy to stand down the 27-year-old.
It does however leave the NRL in dangerous territory on the back of incidents including that of Brett Stewart – who was stood down before being found not guilty of sexual assault charges in 2010.
NRL.com Chief Rugby League writer Michael Chammas said that the Dragons were considering legal action over the change in policy, while there is also concern over de Belin’s welfare.
“The Dragons left the AGM and they didn’t really say a lot,” Chammas said.
“They said they’d consider their position.
“They’ll go back and I imagine the board would gather to discuss their position and that could obviously mean legal options as well.
“I know Jack de Belin’s lawyers are concerned with the change of policy and what that means for his case.
“The Dragons are very, very concerned with Jack de Belin’s welfare, he’s not in a good way at the moment as you can imagine.”
St George Illawarra will also be able to apply for salary cap relief under the new policy.
De Belin will return to court on April 17.
The CEO of the Rugby League Player’s Association, Ian Prendergast has expressed his disappointment in the ARLC’s decision to implement the policy, saying they “believe it directly impacts on the fundamental rights of their members”.
Speaking with the Macquarie Sport’s Radio Drive program, Prendergast said that “by taking action before the alleged facts have been tested by the courts, we are undermining the principle that relates to the players presumption of innocence and also potentially preventing the players right to a fair hearing.”
“We don’t believe you make decisions based on an amount of issues that have occurred in a short period of time,” said Prendergast, “because whilst trying to solve one problem you can create others in the future around how a policy of this nature will be applied in practice.”
The RLPA will be considering their legal options in response to the policy.
Hear the interview with Ian Prendergast below.