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NRL fines Fonua-Blake $20,000 over referee tirade

Manly prop Addin Fonua-Blake has been fined $20,000 for breaching the NRL's Anti Vilification Code during his foul-mouthed tirade against referee Grant Atkins.

The money will be donated to a wheelchair club after his use of a derogatory term for the disabled community.

NRL acting CEO Andrew Abdo will also recommend to the ARL Commission that match review committee guidelines should be simplified to include a mandatory referral to the judiciary for all abuse and intimidation of match officials, above common dissent.

Abdo believes this will give extra support to referees and the committee. 

He announced the fine on Friday for Fonua-Blake, who had already been handed a two-match suspension for contrary conduct, after he met with the Tongan international, Manly chief executive Stephen Humphreys and coach Des Hasler on Thursday afternoon. 

Fonua-Blake was sent off by Atkins following the full-time siren in Manly's dramatic two-point loss to Newcastle at Lottoland on Sunday when the prop abused the referee when his team was not awarded a penalty after a last-ditch attacking raid.

The money from the fine will be used by Wheelchair Rugby League Australia to buy new wheelchairs. He will donate his time to refereeing during the season to gain a better understanding and respect of disability groups.

Dramatic finish ends with Fonua-Blake sent off

The practical component of the penalty will begin once COVID-19 biosecurity protocols are eased.

"What happened on the field was very divisive and not what we stand for as a game," he said at his media conference on Friday to announce the sanctions.

"We pride ourselves on being a genuinely inclusive game and also provide ourselves on being incredibly disciplined.

"The match review committee reviewed the actions of Addin on the field and made a determination of that and was suspended for two matches.

"We reviewed subsequent to that decision and made a determination that Addin's words and his actions were contrary to the anti-vilification codes which exists in the NRL for all players and registered officials.

"I had a long discussion with Addin personally, I believe he is genuinely remorseful for what occurred.

"I believe he's reflected on the lack of discipline and importance of he and all players as role models in sport to be better than that.

"Sport is about bringing people together and uplifting their lives. That certainly didn't occur on Sunday."

Abdo said this was an opportunity to provide positive change for Fonua-Blake and his experiences would also rub off on the broader playing group.

"Education and rehabilitation is also part of the opportunity we have in sport to make people's lives better," he said.

"I believe Addin will positively change because of this experience, spending time with the Northern Beaches wheelchair rugby league which is part of that local community.

"It's also an opportunity to change people's lives within that community and that is the way in which we've approached this."

Fonua-Blake breaks silence over referee outburst

Fonua-Blake issued a written apology through the club on Sunday night at the urging of his wife and on Tuesday the Sea Eagles released a video in which he admitted "I let my emotions get the best of me".

He claimed a post-match incident in which he was heard using similar language to his on-field spray was him venting in the dressing room and was not directed at the referees.

Humphreys issued a statement on behalf of the club on Friday to say "the distress and offence caused to people with a disability and their loved ones by the language used by Addin Fonua-Blake on Sunday is totally unacceptable".

He said Manly have accepted the NRL's verdict and "apologise unreservedly to the disability community for the offence caused".

"Addin continues to acknowledge his mistake, express his remorse as well as his deep regret for what he did and he now fully understands the offence his words caused to so many people," he said.

"He has also talked about his desire to repair the damage caused and to make amends for it as best he can. He has been working with the club on specific ways in which he can best achieve this objective."

Abdo said the NRL would continue to stand by their match officials if matters like this flare up.

There is absolutely no tolerance for abuse towards match officials.

Andrew Abdo

"Abuse of match officials is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. A mandatory referral to the judiciary for any matters of abuse will ensure penalties meet community expectations.

"Our match officials have the toughest job in the game and there is absolutely no tolerance for abuse towards them.

"I've spoken to NRL club CEOs and match officials concerned. We'll continue to engage with them and offer our support.

"The discipline that our players need to show in respecting match officials is certainly at the forefront of what that focus and communication is about."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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