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No-fault stand downs will burden players “forever”

Former Rothmans medalist Mike Eden has warned players stood down under the NRL’s tough new rules may find it difficult to recover their careers, even if found not guilty.

The NRL’s new policy would see any player charged with an offence that carries a maximum jail term of 11 years or more automatically stood down from the game.

Players would receive their full pay while suspended and would still be allowed to train with their team.

Mr Eden, winner of the 1983 Rothmans Medal and a practicing lawyer of 30 years, told Macquarie Sports Radio‘s Cam Reddin the NRL has done the right thing by introducing ‘no fault stand downs’, but warns it has opened a legal “can of worms” that could see players’ careers devastated if they turn out to be not guilty.

“You’re a veteran at 24 in some cases. Other players only get to play a year or two of top-class rugby league,” Mr Eden said.

“Taking a year or two off someone is a huge, huge burden on that person forever, and for their club. It would be a brave club that puts them on when they’ve had no football for a couple of years. It’s like having a very, very bad injury,” Mr Eden said.

While Eden supports the tough new approach, he notes the decision to stand Dragons star Jack de Belin down while he fights aggravated sexual assault charges will impact his side’s chances on the field.

“It will affect a window that only stays open for a few years, for clubs to win premierships. Unfortunately for St George, it may close that window,” Mr Eden said.

Despite the devastating impact of standing down a player that is ultimately found not guilty, Mr Eden said the new policy is the correct approach.

“We have very, very few players who do the wrong thing, get charged and even fewer get convicted. We’ve got to protect our game and I think they’ve got it right,” he said.

David Campbell SC, de Belin’s lawyer, has warned standing players down retrospectively under the new rules could bring about a legal challenge.

“For someone to take civil action against the NRL they would have to have deep pockets, because it’s very expensive,” Mr Eden said.

“A breach of contract and bringing the game into disrepute is the only real avenue that the NRL and the clubs have got to stand these people down,” he said.

ARL Commission Chairman Peter Beattie conceded on Thursday there may be cases in the future where a player is stood down, only to be exonerated by the court.

However, Mr Eden dismissed concerns these laws could encourage members of the public to level spurious allegations against high-profile players.

“It would be highly unlikely that you could make up something on the spot and get someone charged with those serious offences,” Mr Eden said.

“I’d be surprised if any DPP would make these serious charges without really believing they may be able to have a case that could move forward,” he said.

Players charged with offences carrying maximum jail terms of 10 years or below will not be stood down automatically. They will, however, have their case put to NRL CEO Todd Greenberg, who now has the ability to stand the player down if he sees fit, especially in cases involving allegations of violence against women.

Mr Eden says it is a significant responsibility for one individual to possess within the game.

“[NRL CEO Todd Greenberg] does have plenty of legal advice around him… I’m sure he’s going to get the best advice, but he’d have to have broad shoulders,” Mr Eden said.

“They’ve done a pretty good job in trying to protect the brand,” he said. “We’ve got to protect our game and I think they’ve got it right in this case”.

Listen to the full interview below. Tune into the Weekend Warm-Up with Cam Reddin – 4.00am-7.00am Saturday and Sunday mornings