Fifitas stood down
THE Cronulla Sharks have stood down twins Andrew and David Fifita until an investigation has been completed into their alleged misconduct at a match in Penrith juniors over the weekend.
It follows a decision yesterday by Penrith juniors to ban the Sharks forwards for 12 months.
The brothers have five days to decide if they will appeal the junior league suspensions at a hearing or accept the bans.
Andrew is accused of physically threatening the referee at a match between St Patricks, his old club, and St Marys. His brother David was accused of swearing at the referee.
The Sharks said they were reviewing statements received from a variety of people who were present at the match, including independent witnesses, ground and match officials and participating club representatives.
Andrew and David intend to challenge the more serious charges levelled against them.
The Cronulla club also said the previously reported video of the alleged incident does not exist. The legal representatives of the brothers had intended to use the evidence to support their case. It is believed there is no video footage or photographs of the incident available because the referee did not turn on the recording mechanism on his phone.
The Sharks say they are working with the NRL Integrity Unit while it investigates the incident and appropriate sanctions will be put in place once the facts are established.
According to former NRL referee Phil Haines, one of the touch judges involved has already walked away from the game following the incident.
“I can confirm that one touch judge had his son there at the day and his son is in tears,” Haines said.
“He’s made a choice, a personal choice, to not put himself or his son in that position again. He has walked away from the game.”
Haines also said referee abuse was a serious problem in junior rugby league, with 30 referees walking away from the game in the past 12 months in the Penrith district alone.
“I’m working now over at property central in Penrith and one of the guys, Paul Wallace, he coaches the Under 15s and I talk to him all the time and he talks to them all the time about taking the referee out of the game, not being involved with any form of abuse or anything directed towards the referee at all, not even backchatting and that’s the kind of model coach that we need in the game and these isolated incidents that occur, they’re isolated and completely unnecessary but we’ll lose three referee out of this, whether it’s proven true or untrue.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers have revealed under- 20s player Matthew Lodge was issued with a breach notice from the Penrith Junior Rugby League on Monday.
Lodge, who is an assistant coach with a St Patricks Blacktown junior league side, received the breach notice following his alleged involvement in an incident over the weekend.