No club is bigger than the game and that is why NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg won’t take into consideration the fact lewd video footage of Canterbury recruit Dylan Napa was filmed while he was playing for the Roosters.
Greenberg is awaiting a final report from the NRL Integrity Unit and he stressed no decision had yet been made but Napa is expected to receive a suspension that will sideline him for the start of the season with his new club after videos taken five years ago became public last month.
It has been a difficult off-season for Canterbury and the loss of Napa will be a bitter blow but the damage to the game’s reputation is more significant than the fortunes of one club and the 26-year-old forward should expect the same penalty he would if he were still playing for the Roosters.
Asked whether it would be tough on the Bulldogs if a player was banned for an incident which occurred while playing for a rival club, Greenberg said: "It might be, but that is not my primary concern."
Greenberg’s job is to protect the image and reputation of the game, and the leaked videos – coupled with the misbehaviour of a small group of players during the off-season – make it harder for the NRL to sell sponsorship, secure government support and entice new fans.
Greenberg: Accept responsibilities or find another job
In response, he has decided to come down harder on wayward players and it is hoped heavy sanctions – such as the banishing of sacked North Queensland star Ben Barba from professional rugby league, including the Intrust Super Cup – will ensure they got the message.
As for clubs such as the Bulldogs, Cowboys and others who have star players facing police charges or under investigation over off-field incidents, Greenberg said it was up to the teams to recruit good people as well as players.
"It is the same as the Cowboys, it is probably a little harsh on them that they are missing a player who has never laced on a boot for them but that is the real difficulty for recruit and retention for club," Greenberg told reporters at the launch of the NSWRL’s Centre of Excellence on Tuesday.
"My message to clubs is that when you are buying and selling players look equally at the values as opposed to the skill set. I think they should be assessed in equal priority."
Barba runs out of options
The focus on off-field behaviour has become so intense that Greenberg was forced to respond to questions about another leaked video involving two high-profile former teammates as he announced an effective lifetime ban against Barba.
It was later found the video, which was shared with journalists as well as on social media, did not involve any NRL players but appears to have been made to damage their reputations and that of the game.
"If something lands on my desk we will deal with it and we will deal with it properly," Greenberg said.
Up to seven players have upcoming court appearances that NRL officials are waiting to conclude before considering sanctions but Greenberg said he hoped to be able to make a decision on Napa’s fate soon.
What I have seen is damage to the game and where damage to the game occurs there will be consequences.Todd Greenberg
If it is agreed Napa could have reasonably expected the videos would never become public, he may escape penalty as South Sydney forward Sam Burgess did last year.
"I’ve asked the Integrity Unit to try to complete that piece of work quickly but they are a pretty busy place at the moment," Greenberg said. "We will get to the bottom of that and then we will put out a decision.
"What I have seen is damage to the game and where damage to the game occurs there will be consequences."
The Integrity Unit is also considering whether action should be taken against North Queensland prop Scott Bolton after he pleaded guilty to common assault and received a 12-month good behaviour bond last month over an incident at a Bondi hotel in May 2018.
CCTV confirms Barba altercation