Manly accept Stewart's NRL suspension - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Manly accept Stewart's NRL suspension

11/03/2009 06:59:42 PM Comments (0)

Manly have accepted the NRL's decision to ban fullback Brett Stewart from playing but plan to appeal the club's $100,000 fine for hosting the booze-fuelled season launch.

"The NRL's decision to suspend Brett Stewart for four matches is contrary to the Sea Eagles Board's resolution last night however in consultation with Brett's management and legal advisor we have agreed to accept their decision," said the Sea Eagles in a statement.

"The NRL's decision to fine the Club $100,000 will be addressed by the Board once the Breach notice has been officially served. The Club will be invoking our right of appeal when the notice is received."

The NRL's decision to suspend Manly star Brett Stewart for the first four rounds of the competition has received a mixed reaction - with officials supporting the move but NRL players furious at the decision. Stewart's ban came after he was charged with the sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl.

The governing body also fined Manly $100,000 for the boozy season launch last Friday that preceded the alleged incident involving Stewart.

The NRL stressed its decision to stop Stewart playing was not intended to reflect any judgment regarding the police investigation.

The fullback is due back in court on April 7, after the fourth round of the competition and the NRL will review their stance on Stewart following his court date.

The Sea Eagles try-scoring machine was the face of the NRL's $1.5 million 2009 season marketing campaign which has had to be edited. Wednesday's ruling came after Sea Eagles co-owner Scott Penn and chief executive Grant Mayer had crisis talks with NRL officials at NRL headquarters in Sydney.

The talks followed the Manly board's insistence that Stewart play in this weekend's season opener against the Bulldogs despite the charge against him.

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.

In the Sea Eagles' statement on Wednesday the club said the incident with Watmough and the sponsor "has now been resolved between both parties."

Meantime, the Rugby League Players' Association condemned the NRL's ban of Stewart.

"A player should not be stood down from playing and fulfilling his contractual commitments to his club because he has been charged with a criminal offence particularly where the player has indicated that he will defend the charge," said RLPA managing director Matt Rodwell in a statement.

"A player like any other person in the community is entitled to the presumption of innocence - the basis of the judicial system in Australia."

Meanwhile Queensland coach Mal Meninga lauded the NRL's decision at the launch of the opening State of Origin game in Melbourne.

He said the NRL had shown strong leadership in taking the decision out of Manly's hands.

"It's very difficult because they're (Manly) so close to the player and the player's a very important commodity in their football side. "For the National Rugby League to stand above it and make some tough decisions is a good sign."

Cronulla chief executive Tony Zappia says he probably would have stood down star Manly fullback Brett Stewart if he was at his NRL club. Zappia likened Stewart's situation to that of Greg Bird who was suspended by Cronulla after being charged with assaulting his girlfriend last year, a case which is still before the courts.

Zappia, talking before the NRL handed down punishment, said the Bird decision had been made in the interest of the club and the league. Rival administrator, Australian rugby supremo John O'Neill, backed the NRL's swift action in banning Brett Stewart, saying a "weeping wound" can't be allowed to fester.

"It doesn't matter which sport you are running, anything that brings the game into disrepute and the publicity really hurts the game, you have to take really swift action," O'Neill told Fox Sports.

"Because the longer it hangs out there it's a weeping wound and it just hurts the game."

Stewart has been suspended under the NRL code of conduct in a decision that was given the full support of an angry NRL board.

"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."

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