Suspension, big fine for unhelpful Bronco

Brisbane Broncos spent months trying to convince teenager Payne Haas to speak to the NRL’s integrity unit and say they had no choice but to suspend him for four games and fine him $20,000 when his co-operation fell short.

The investigation stemmed from two off-field incidents involving the 19-year-old’s family members, one a wild brawl at a local rugby league game late last year.

Announcing the sanction on Wednesday, Broncos boss Paul White stressed Haas had not committed any alleged acts of violence and the investigation had now closed.

It is understood the NRL worked closely with the Broncos to deliver the punishment and a harsher penalty would’ve ensued if Haas had completely refused to co-operate.

Despite the club’s constant urgings either side of Christmas, though, White said the emerging prop’s level of co-operation fell short and warranted more than a slap on the wrist

“I just draw the link between complex family matters and an integrity unit investigation and I think you can join the dots,” he said, stressing there was no expectation to put club before family.

“There’s a huge amount of tension in that … if we could’ve chosen another course of action we wouldn’t be sitting here today but that action was dictated by that level of co-operation.

“It may result in a negative outcome but I’m hopeful in Payne’s case this will be a reference point for his future.”

Haas was among the best on ground in last weekend’s trial game in Warwick and had been named to start on Saturday against Queensland Cup side Wynnum Manly.

But he has been scratched from the game, with White saying the club had made the most of the time afforded to them in the preseason to make a considered decision.

White said new coach Anthony Seibold was integral in handing down the punishment in what could prove a significant moment as he begins his tenure in the post-Wayne Bennett era.

“He’s here for a long time and gets a chance to have a long-term view,” White said.

“He’s had big input (in the suspension).

“One thing I know young men crave is structure but also discipline. They want to know what the boundaries are.

“Care and respect is also about making tough decisions, not just patting people on the back and (Seibold) understands that.”

© AAP 2019

Drinkwater to fill Slater’s Storm jersey

Scott Drinkwater has been rewarded for a huge off-season with first crack at Billy Slater’s vacant Melbourne Storm fullback jersey.

Drinkwater will start at No.1 in the Storm’s first pre-season trial against the Warriors in Geelong on Friday night, beating off challenges from Jahrome Hughes and Ryan Papenhuyzen.

The 21-year-old got a taste of NRL action late last year and decided he would go all-out to replace the retired superstar.

“I’ve had a few pre-seasons down here and the majority I’ve just been learning but this pre-season I’ve seen a big spot vacant and I made it a goal of mine to do as best I can to get the No.1 jersey for round one,” Drinkwater said.

The former Australian schoolboys representative has spent most of his young career in the halves but switched to fullback last season in the Storm’s feeder team in the Queensland Cup.

Drinkwater said he felt it was an ideal fit, and he was the Storm’s best player as he filled in for Slater in that round 25 loss to Penrith, even scoring a try.

“I’m enjoying fullback – it’s new and exciting and the best thing about it is that I can roam both sides of the field,” said Drinkwater, whose older brother Josh is a halfback with Super League club Hull Kingston Rovers.

“I’m not stuck on one side like a normal half these days.”

With Slater still involved in a part-time coaching role with Melbourne, Drinkwater said he felt lucky he could call on the fullback legend whenever he needed advice.

“He’s always said that if I ever need any help he’s a phone call away so it’s good to have the best in the game right in the same city as you.”

Despite their battle for the same jersey, Drinkwater said he and Hughes remained close mates.

“We’re both fighting for that one spot but that doesn’t change anything – we don’t hate each other because of it.

“You’ve got to do your best in training or the games and it’s up to Craig and the coaching staff to choose who they want.”

© AAP 2019

Broncos’ Fensom eyes big trial chance

Shaun Fensom still sees a place for himself in Brisbane’s best side despite the wealth of emerging NRL forwards he’s found himself competing with for a spot.

The former Canberra and North Queensland enforcer will run out for the Broncos for the first time in Saturday’s trial game against Queensland Cup outfit Wynnum Manly.

The 30-year-old will share front row duties with the highly-rated 19-year-old Payne Haas, while David Fifita, Tevita Pangai and Alex Glenn will fill the backrow.

Fellow veteran Sam Tagataese is on the bench for Brisbane alongside exciting pair Thomas Flegler and Patrick Carrigan, while Matt Gillett is set to return from injury next weekend.

Fensom says the hype around the young members of the squad is justified, but with Sam Thaiday’s retirement and Josh McGuire’s move north thinks he still has a role to play under new coach Anthony Seibold.

“I’ve had a strong back end to the preseason and will be looking to secure a spot (by playing well in the trial game),” he said.

“(I’ll do) whatever the coach wants coming off the bench (during the regular season); I’m there to fill a variety of roles and play whatever needs to be played.

“I wouldn’t uproot my family and move around the country if I wasn’t serious … I take this very seriously.”

A noted hard man of the NRL, Fensom said Seibold’s high-octane approach to pre-season sat well with him.

“Some days are longer, some are shorter; it’s quite intense and very upbeat,” he said.

“There’s competition for all spots and the more (competition) we have the better.”

© AAP 2019

NRL Football

NRL considers crackdown on behaviour

The NRL will consider standing down players accused of serious crimes after promising to review a hardline stance put forward by Melbourne chairman Bart Campbell.

The game is in damage control after an off-season in which player misbehaviour has dominated headlines and sent rugby league spiralling in the standing of fans and sponsors

A frustrated Campbell on Thursday fired off an email to league bosses and fellow club chiefs in which he lamented that the game had become “morally tone deaf”.

Campbell said that if Jack de Belin, who this week pleaded not guilty to a rape charge, were signed to the Storm, he would stand down the NSW State of Origin lock while the court case is heard.

He said that in many other professions an employee in that situation would be stood down, and urged the NRL to drive a change in policy.

ARLC chairman Peter Beattie said Campbell’s submission will be reviewed when the commission meets on February 28.

“The ARLC is strongly opposed to anyone in rugby league being involved in violence of any kind, especially domestic violence and any behaviour which brings the game into disrepute,” Beattie said.

“The ARLC has instructed the NRL to take the strongest possible action against any player engaged in such behaviour – from serious fines to suspensions and de-registration.”

The NRL and St George Illawarra have both refused to stand down de Belin, saying he is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

The Rugby League Players Association also warned against pre-judging any player.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg has already promised to mete out harsher penalties for any player found guilty of violent offences, as evidenced by his decision to hand Ben Barba a life ban after he was involved in an altercation with his partner at a Townsville casino.

The NRL is meeting with the chief executives of all 16 clubs in Melbourne on Friday where player behaviour is once again expected to be on the agenda.

© AAP 2019

Gold Coast Suns player collared shirt

Gold Coast Suns midfielder likely to miss season after rupturing ACL

The Gold Coast Suns have already had their first injury casualty and the AFL season hasn’t even started.

Midfielder Harrison Wigg, who already had an injury interrupted season last year, is like to miss 2019 after suffering a knee injury at training on Thursday morning.

The 22-year-old underwent scans following the incident, with GM – Football Operations Jon Haines confirming he had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament.

Haines said that the whole club would rally around him during his recovery.

“It’s really unfortunate for Harrison, he had an injury interrupted season with the club last year, but had put together a really strong pre-season,” Haines said.

“We’ll make sure we provide as much support as we can for Harrison, and it’s been great today to see the way the whole football club has got around him to show their support.”

“We were excited to see Harrison play some consistent football this year as we know what he can provide for us both on and off the field.”

“We know he’ll approach his recovery with the professionalism he has shown this pre-season and we look forward to seeing him back up and running.”

The club is still working out what road to take regarding surgery.