Face of league Marshall escapes sanction - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Face of league Marshall escapes sanction

By David Beniuk 07/03/2011 09:01:25 PM Comments (0)

The face of the NRL will be showing his face in round one of the new season.

The league has left Benji Marshall's alleged assault to the courts after finding no evidence of any further bad behaviour.

NRL boss David Gallop said on Monday the league had accepted a report from the Wests Tigers, as well as conducting its own inquires at the venues attended by Marshall on Friday night and Saturday morning.

It concluded that the only matter for concern was the disputed assault.

Marshall, 26, has been charged with one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and will appear in court on April 20.

Gallop said there was no evidence Marshall had been drunk and the league boss sought to head off criticism by pointing out the differences between the Tiger star's case and that of the 2009 face of the league, Manly's Brett Stewart.

"Benji Marshall has been charged with assault but there's no evidence of any other misconduct on that night which would lead us to be looking at misconduct other than the assault charge," Gallop said.

"That puts us in the situation where the facts are in dispute in relation to the assault and it will clearly be a matter that needs to be determined by the court.

"At this stage, therefore, the club is not in a position to take any action and we accept that and we're in a similar situation."

An NRL statement said Marshall's behaviour had been "exemplary" before the incident as he hosted a charity event to raise funds for children with cancer.

Marshall's manager Martin Tauber claimed his client was subjected to racial abuse three times before the alleged assault took place in the Sydney CBD in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Gallop said provocation would be a matter for the court to consider.

But he said the NRL would not be insisting players give up late night socialising.

"Clearly you put yourself in risky situations at that hour and in those places but we're not about to legislate about eating fast food or staying up late at night," Gallop said.

The NRL went to some lengths to point out the differences between Marshall's case and that of Stewart, who was rubbed out for four games after the now infamous Manly season launch.

Stewart was charged with sexual assault following an incident later that night but subsequently cleared by a court.

Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler last week blasted Gallop when the league decided against suspending serial off-field offender Todd Carney after a drink driving charge.

"Comparisons are often made but those comparisons are not necessarily apples with apples," Gallop said.

"In (Stewart's) situation there was clear evidence of misconduct on the night that was separate from the allegation of sexual assault.

"We left the allegation of sexual assault to the courts to determine but we acted in relation to the misconduct that happened earlier on the night.

"That's a clear and stark difference with the situation that we're dealing with now with Benji Marshall."

Gallop said the league would expect the Tigers to take action against Marshall if he was found guilty, but also vouched for the character of the New Zealand Test captain and Golden Boot winner.

"We all saw last week that Benji takes his role in the game, not only as a player on the field but a player off the field, seriously and no doubt he would be distressed to find himself in this situation," Gallop said.

Marshall is now free to play for the Tigers in Monday night's clash against Canterbury at ANZ Stadium.

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