Off The Wall

The NRL must show more decisive leadership - on a key issue.

Now that Russell Packer has pleaded guilty to a serious criminal offence - for which he has been sentenced to the maximum two years in prison - the NRL needs to formally disqualify him from the NRL... and not just for the two year prison sentence.

The penalty the courts hand down is one for the courts. It need have no impact on what the NRL does. The NRL has an open and shut case - a player had pleaded guilty to a serious offence, an offence that is rightly attracting community condemnation. That means his disqualification should be absolute, no two years, but forever.

His "rehabilitation" is principally a matter for the prisons system and his own family and friends. The community will rightly be watching the NRL on this the community increasingly watching sports administrators generally when it comes to the penalties for players convicted of criminal offences that involve violence in any form. The off season has been relatively peaceful when it comes to off field behaviour....but there is still a month or so to go. But rugby league cannot rest on its laurels.

Any player convicted of an offence in which violence is involved - and especially if he is given a custodial sentence - then his NRL career must be over. In the case of Packer, he won't be able to use playing in Super League as an alternative.  His criminal record will make it impossible for him to get a visa to work in the UK - he might even struggle to get one to visit the UK!

It will be interested to see how long it takes the NRL to take a decisive stand on this case - and others similar to it. It had better not take too long, because the community is right on to the NRL, and other codes,when it comes to players who bring disgrace on their game.

His contract with the Knights has not been registered by the NRL. But that is just not good enough. His NRL days must be over. And so must those of any player convicted of a criminal offence for which a term of imprisonment can be applied.

I don't include in that drink driving, or even common assault. If Russell Packer was a Member of the NSW Parliament he would automatically lose his seat - no matter which side he was on. He is entitled under the law to seek a reduction in his prison sentence. But that is of no relevance when it comes to his NRL registration - the fact he has pleaded guilty is the key issue for the NRL.

I have just read a statement from the Knights on the Newcastle Herald website. It talks about him having acted "inappropriately".


The NRL needs to pull the Knights management into line as well.

The NRL needs to be VERY careful it gets this right!