Mar­shall es­capes cen­sure over biff

Townsville Bulletin - - NRL -

BENJI Mar­shall will face no pun­ish­ment from his club the Wests Tigers or the NRL un­less fur­ther ev­i­dence of bad be­hav­iour emerges or he is found guilty of his as­sault charge.

Mar­shall, anointed the face of the league at last week’s sea­son launch, es­caped sanc­tion yes­ter­day with the NRL say­ing, apart from the dis­puted as­sault al­le­ga­tion, there was no other ev­i­dence of mis­con­duct.

The league said it would not pre­judge the as­sault al­le­ga­tion but re­served the right to pun­ish Mar­shall if its in­ves­ti­ga­tions un­cov­ered ev­i­dence he had mis­be­haved in the Syd­ney CBD in the early hours of Satur­day morn­ing.

‘‘ The only is­sue that would seem ca­pa­ble of at­tract­ing any penalty from the NRL in this mat­ter is the one that will be de­ter­mined in court,’’ NRL chief ex­ec­u­tive David Gal­lop said.

‘‘ It may well be that Benji can suc­cess­fully de­fend the al­le­ga­tion and he is en­ti­tled to that op­por­tu­nity.

‘‘ Both he and the Wests Tigers, though, need to be aware that the se­ri­ous­ness of this mat­ter and the im­por­tance of the week will dic­tate the need for strong ac­tion if he is un­suc­cess­ful in de­fend­ing the charge.’’

Mar­shall has been charged with one count of as­sault oc­ca­sion­ing ac­tual bod­ily harm.

His man­ager, Martin Tauber, claims his client was racially abused sev­eral time be­fore the al­leged in­ci­dent. The Tigers yes­ter­day pre­sented a re­port of the in­ci­dent to the NRL and the club’s ac­count has so far been ac­cepted by the league.

‘‘ The re­port in­di­cates that, af­ter the player had con­ducted him­self in an ex­em­plary man­ner through­out the evening, there was an al­le­ga­tion of an as­sault,’’ an NRL state­ment said.

The league moved to head off crit­i­cism by cit­ing sim­i­lar ac­tion taken in the past against play­ers Sandor Earl, Jake Friend and An­thony Laf­franchi, all of whom faced charges but were sub­se­quently found not guilty.

It said Manly’s Brett Ste­wart had been sus­pended in 2009 be­cause of ev­i­dence of mis­con­duct be­fore an in­ci­dent which re­sulted in a sex­ual as­sault charge. Ste­wart was also later cleared of that charge.

Mar­shall is free to play in Mon­day night’s round one clash against Can­ter­bury at ANZ Sta­dium.

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