CRONULLA WON’T RULE OUT DUMP­ING FI­FITA BROTH­ERS

In­quiry looks at Fi­fi­tas’ role in clash

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - STEVE ZEMEK

CRONULLA have re­fused to rule out stand­ing down An­drew and David Fi­fita for the rest of the NRL sea­son even if it comes at the ex­pense of their top- eight hopes.

The pair are the sub­ject of an NRL In­tegrity Unit in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter a heated clash with match of­fi­cials fol­low­ing a ju­nior rugby league game in Pen­rith on Satur­day.

Cronulla chief ex­ec­u­tive Lyall Gor­man con­ceded the pair acted in­ap­pro­pri­ately and swore at of­fi­cials but said there was not enough ev­i­dence to stand them down. Gor­man said some of the al­le­ga­tions were in dis­pute, in par­tic­u­lar that An­drew threat­ened vi­o­lence against the 24- year- old ref­eree af­ter he be­gan film­ing the in­ci­dent on his phone.

“Some of the al­le­ga­tions are cor­rect in terms of the match of­fi­cial be­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ately ap­proached af­ter the match,” Gor­man said.

“Some foul lan­guage oc­curred to­wards the match of­fi­cial, there’s no doubt about that. There seems to be a lit­tle bit more of a grey area in the other sec­ond as­ser­tion and that’s the facts that we’re try­ing to tighten up and de­ter­mine.”

The NRL has asked they be stood down should any of the al­le­ga­tions be proven true and pledged se­ri­ous con­se­quences.

“Match of­fi­cials give up their time be­cause they love the game and the last thing they should be sub­jected to is abuse or in­tim­i­da­tion,” NRL chief ex­ec­u­tive Dave Smith said.

“It is even more in­tol­er­a­ble if some­one with the stature of

The last

thing ( match of­fi­cials) should be sub­jected to is abuse NRL CEO DAVE SMITH

an NRL player is in­volved.” Nei­ther were stood down for yesterday’s match with Can­ter­bury at Bel­more Sports Ground, with the Sharks say­ing David was omit­ted from the 17- man squad on form.

The three of­fi­cials had to be es­corted to their cars af­ter an A- grade game be­tween St Pa­tricks and St Marys at Glen­wood. It has been re­ported for­mer NSW for­ward An­drew had to be re­strained and phys­i­cally threat­ened a ref­eree.

David was fill­ing in as a trainer for St Pa­tricks and, af­ter the game, abused the ref­eree for not call­ing a halt to the game when a player was in­jured. The ref­eree be­gan film­ing the episode and An­drew then de­manded he hand over the phone, al­legedly telling him: “I’ll smash you”.

Gor­man said he had not seen the video and ex­pected to re­ceive it by to­day. The match of­fi­cial’s re­port will be re­viewed to­day by the Pen­rith Ju­nior Rugby League, which will de­cide whether to hand the Fi­fita broth­ers a ci­ta­tion.

If they de­cide to chal­lenge the facts, the mat­ter will go to a full re­view panel the week af­ter. The Sharks said they would wait un­til the out­come of the PJRL hear­ing be­fore hand­ing down any pun­ish­ment while the NRL was await­ing the club’s re­port.

The loss of An­drew Fi­fita would be a mas­sive blow for the Sharks in their pur­suit of a top- eight spot. He has emerged from the dis­ap­point­ment of be­ing dropped by NSW dur­ing this year’s State of Ori­gin se­ries and re­bounded to form, scor­ing in each of his last four out­ings.

Pic­ture: GREGG POR­TE­OUS

GOTCHA: The Sharks’ An­drew Fi­fita is tack­led by Bull­dogs Trent Hod­kin­son and Frank Pritchard.

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