‘Incompetent’: NRL ‘chest-beating’ slammed
The NRL has taken yet another huge hit after a federal court judge said St George Illawarra Dragons star Jack de Belin could play in round one as the NRL rules currently stood.
The ARL commission's "no-fault" policy was announced last week but the Dragons player took the ARL and NRL to court today to challenge his suspension.
Justice Stephen Rares said NRL material had suggested de Belin had been stood down when in fact he had not.
"There is no entitlement to stand him down from what you have told me," Justice Rares said.
"The truth is, nothing is in place at the moment. It is damaging to him as a professional and as an individual."
Speaking on NRL 360, the panel was frustrated with the NRL's attempt to enforce a rule that doesn't exist.
With the decision to stand de Belin down, ARL Commission chairman Peter Beattie defended the process of establishing the rule.
"We didn't get it wrong, what we said last week was that we had approved the policy at the commission meeting and then Todd (Greenberg) and the NRL would draft the rule and it would be in place before the season starts," Beattie said. "What we said we would do we will actually do.
"We need to get it drafted, we need to get the best legal advice, which we have, we need to consult with the Player's Association."
Beattie was also asked about the decision of the Judge Rares, who said discussion of the new policy had damaged de Belin's reputation.
He did say "it will be in place next Thursday".
"At the end of the day, as chairman of the commission, I'm responsible for it," Beattie said.
"But the reality is, this is difficult to manage. We had to get the policy in place, which we've done and then when the policy was finalised, we had to get the rule drafted. You can't do it any faster than that, it doesn't matter whether you're Einstein or whoever. You can't do it any faster than that."
However, NRL 360 host Paul Kent took aim at league for the slow process.
"Even when the NRL try to do the right thing, they can't get it right," Kent said.
"Essentially what it is, Jack de Belin signs a contract, where he agrees, as every NRL player does, to abide by the rules of the NRL. So the NRL are going to change the rule and always intended to have the rule changed by March 14 when the competition kicks off - they just haven't got around to it yet.
"So Jack de Belin is challenging the rule the NRL currently doesn't have in place. But the NRL is confident that when they get around to next week, it will be place therefore he'll be stood down.
"This is embarrassing for the game that they cannot get this right, that they're trying to now play cute and say we always intended to have the rule in place. It's incompetence."
Fellow host Ben Ikin was also frustrated by the development.
"If the rule wasn't in place, why come out and beat your chest?" Ikin said "If it was going to take time, why not be honest?"
The Daily Telegraph's Phil Rothfield said the NRL has been hurt by the ARLC's decision with not enough time to organise the new rule.
"I think the NRL are the victim of the urgency of the independent commission meeting that introduced this proposal," Rothfield said.
"They are painfully slow, they painfully thorough, and the reason being is they got the independent legal advice before the independent commission meeting that it was in their rights to stand down Jack de Belin and other players allegedly damaging the image of the game.
"The game has never been under siege like it has been the last month. They had to make a decision that would satisfy the public and do it very quickly. They took legal advice, they drew up a proposal which needed some finer detail before it was introduced as a rule."
Rothfield also blamed budget cuts in the NRL, mentioning that $1 million had been earmarked to help strengthen the NRL Integrity Unit.
However, Ikin hit back after the NRL made a record revenue of $499.9m, a $42.8m surplus according to the NRL.
"If you are budgeting to make a $50 million surplus, spending an extra $1 million in your business where it counts should be a no-brainer," he said.
Overall, Kent said there could have been a simple solution to the "embarrassing" situation.
"Peter Beattie indicated that he was always aware something like this could happen," Kent said.
"We have the season launch tonight for the game, it gets completely overshadowed by court action today. We have the first game next Thursday, which will be completely overshadowed by the court action with Jack de Belin.
"Why didn't somebody say to Jack de Belin and his representatives, 'listen, no point in taking us to court on these two counts because by the time we start in round one, we will have written the rule'. Right now, Jack de Belin is 100 per cent in the right legally here."
"This could have all been avoided with a phone call."