Suspended Titans players reinstated
Titans CEO Graham Annesley is expecting a mixed reaction from the Gold Coast community after suspended Origin stars Greg Bird and Dave Taylor were on Tuesday cleared to resume their playing careers.
Bird, Taylor and Beau Falloon have each been rushed back into the starting team to face Newcastle at Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday night with outside backs Kalifa Faifai Loa and Jamie Dowling also to resume their playing careers in the Intrust Super Cup this weekend.
After receiving independent legal advice from Tony Bannon SC on Tuesday morning members of the Titans board were asked to individually consider the advice put before them before deciding to allow their return to the playing group.
All five players have been charged with a variety of drug offences to which they have pleaded not guilty with court proceedings to resume on May 8. Until a verdict is reached in the case, though, the players will be free to continue playing in the NRL.
"We needed to have a resolution in the short term," Annesley said. "Clearly the legal process will play out over time and we'll all have to wait and see how that does play out but the club couldn't continue in this state of flux that we've been in for the last few weeks. There had to be a decision made.
"There'll be mixed views about whether this is the right decision or not. The community will probably be divided about these sorts of decisions but the board have to take on board every piece of information they have and make what they believe to be the right decision and they've done that."
Since the story broke that five current Titans players were embroiled in an investigation by the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission Annesley has indicated that they would be required to address the board prior to reinstatement but he said on Tuesday that upon receiving their legal advice that course of action was not pursued.
"Part of the advice that we received today was that meeting with the players are asking the players to show cause, as it's referred to, is in itself risky whilst they are still progressing through the courts," he said.
"They would be in a position where they may prejudice their court proceedings so the board decided not to go down that path and to reinstate them."
Before issuing his advice to the Titans board eminent Sydney-based Senior Counsel Tony Bannon considered all relevant information available including police reports, individual player contracts, the NRL Rules and code of conduct and told the club that given the circumstances and alternatives the better course is for the club to "stay its hand on disciplinary action until the criminal proceedings have been determined".
"On the basis of this advice the Board has resolved to allow the charged players to return to playing and training duties pending the outcome of the legal process," the club said in a statement.
"In accepting the legal advice in relation to the specific circumstances of these charges, the Board reaffirms its determination to continue to take strong action as and when required to protect and enhance the reputation of the Gold Coast Titans in the eyes of the community and the sporting world generally.
"Should any of the current allegations ultimately be proven in the courts, in assessing any subsequent disciplinary action the Board will be mindful of the serious reputational and financial damage the club has already suffered."