Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Manly star Brett Stewart has been suspended by the NRL until round five after being charged with sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl.
Furthermore, the NRL has fined Manly $100,000 for the boozy season launch last Friday that preceded the incident involving Stewart.
Stewart is due back in court on April 7, after the fourth round of the NRL.
The ruling came after Sea Eagles co-owner Scott Penn and chief executive Grant Mayer had crisis talks at NRL headquarters this morning in Sydney.
The talks followed the Manly board's insistence earlier today that Stewart would play in this weekend's season opener against the Bulldogs.
The Sea Eagles are also in the spotlight for Anthony Watmough's behaviour after the forward was involved in an altercation with a club sponsor at last Friday's controversial function.
Stewart has been suspended under the NRL code of conduct in a decision that was given the full support of an angry NRL board when they discussed the issue via a phone hook up on Wednesday morning.
Stewart was the face of the NRL's $1.5 million 2009 season marketing campaign which has had to be edited.
"Brett could not have been in a more high profile position of trust for the game on the eve of a season than he was last week and we believe he should have recognised the honour that he was given and the responsibility that went with it," said NRL chief executive David Gallop.
"By any estimation there was an abuse of alcohol in the aftermath of a club function that has led in some parts to the game being placed under enormous pressure.
"The players and the clubs need to know that we are not going to accept that.
"The Manly club has today delivered its report into the function and the measures simply weren't sufficient to stop drinking getting out of hand in the case of some of the players."
Stewart and Manly have five business days to respond after receiving the formal breach notice with the option to take the matters to the NRL Appeals Committee.
The Rugby League Players' Association has condemned the NRL's move to stand down the Manly star until Round 5.
The RLPA says Stewart should not be stood down because he has been charged with a criminal offence, particularly as he has indicated that he will defend the charge.