Manly Sea Eagles star Addin Fonua-Blake has been given a $20,000 fine by the NRL as part of his punishment for breaching the league’s Anti Vilification Code.
His actions prompted a huge outcry from the NRL community and Brad Fittler said it highlighted a big issue the league needed to address.
On Friday, the NRL announced that the $20,000 fine from Fonua-Blake will go to Wheelchair Rugby League Australia to buy new wheelchairs, and in addition, the prop will volunteer to be a referee in wheelchair rugby league “to gain a better understanding and respect of disability groups”.
Fonua-Blake breaks silence over second tirade
“Acting Chief Executive Andrew Abdo will also recommend to the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) that Match Review Committee guidelines be changed to include a mandatory referral to the judiciary for serious abuse or intimidation of match officials,” the NRL said in a statement.
“Mr Abdo made the determination today after he met with Fonua-Blake, Sea Eagles Chief Executive Stephen Humphreys and coach Des Hasler on Thursday afternoon.
“The practical component of the penalty will commence once COVID-19 biosecurity protocols are eased. The penalty under the Anti-Vilification Code is in addition to the two-match suspension handed down by the Match Review Committee after Sunday’s match against the Newcastle Knights.”
Fittler says game needs to deal with wayward young stars
Abdo told media that the added punishment was to “drive change” and highlight how inclusiveness was an important value of the NRL.
“The focus of this penalty is about rehabilitation and education, it’s not punitive. I do not believe Addin missing more matches will enhance his understanding or respect for people with a disability, but embarking on a program such as this will have a lifelong impact on his thinking,” he said.
“I see this as an opportunity to provide positive change for Addin and his experiences will also rub off on the broader playing group. Increasing the suspension is an easy decision but what is more important is driving change in attitudes. Sport has a responsibility to drive community change.
“Ignorance is not an excuse for the responsibility our professional players carry. There is no tolerance for comments like we witnessed on Sunday,” he said.
“Rugby league breaks down social barriers and gives everyone an opportunity to participate. Inclusivity is the foundation of our game.”
Abdo was also hoping the NRL’s actions would see referees better protected from offensive behaviour, pending the ARLC’s approval of stronger penalties.
“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,” he said.
“Our match officials have the toughest job in the game and there is absolutely no tolerance for abuse towards them.”