Manly explode at NRL over Stewart - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Manly explode at NRL over Stewart

By Ian McCullough 08/03/2011 05:46:44 PM Comments (0)

A war of words between Manly and the NRL erupted on Tuesday as the Sea Eagles' simmering resentment over Brett Stewart's four-game ban back in 2009 boiled over.

The NRL incensed the Sea Eagles on Monday by announcing they would await the outcome of Benji Marshall's court case before considering any sanction after he was charged with assault following a weekend incident.

The Sea Eagles launched a scathing attack on the NRL at a press conference fronted by coach Des Hasler, chief executive Graham Lowe and chairman Scott Penn at the club's training ground.

The club claims Stewart's treatment in 2009 was "grossly unfair" when he was suspended for four matches and the club fined $100,000 following their boozy season launch in 2009.

The 26-year-old was cleared in court last year of a sexual assault charge stemming from the hours after that launch.

Manly believe the NRL acted too quickly in punishing Stewart, claiming there was no evidence the representative fullback was heavily intoxicated at the time the NRL said he breached their code of conduct.

However, the NRL hit back, claiming Manly's own report on the incident indicated Stewart was asked to leave the licensed premises where the Sea Eagles held their launch due to intoxication.

It was also noted the Sea Eagles had admitted at the time their alcohol management procedures were inadequate.

Hasler, however, accused NRL chief executive David Gallop of being inconsistent in not offering Stewart the same support as Marshall.

"We all know now Brett was cleared of all allegations of sexual assault," Hasler said.

"There were some sections of the media that reported Brett as being 'blind drunk' and couldn't remember anything and being highly intoxicated.

"That was not the case. Brett did not exhibit any behaviour that offended our code or the code of the NRL. He was not heavily intoxicated.

"He did not exhibit any behaviour that would have brought the game into disrepute and that is the inconsistency."

Lowe said the club was angry Stewart's name continued to be dragged up every time a player misbehaves and called on Gallop to admit he made a mistake.

"We won't get the four weeks back, but we've got to stop immediately bringing up Brett Stewart and leaving a scent that he may have done something wrong," Lowe said.

"We believe communication and fairness is the key and it is not a sign of weakness by the NRL to admit they might have been wrong."

Lowe said the Sea Eagles were happy with how the NRL had handled the Marshall situation, with the Tigers star vowing to defend himself against a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm in Downing Centre local court on April 20.

"In hindsight, in light of the NRL's most recent decisions in similar matters, the fact that Brett was suspended for four weeks and the club fined $100,000 would appear to be grossly unfair," Lowe said.

"The club doesn't take any issue with the recent decision of the NRL in the case of Benji Marshall. Allowing the legal process to take its course, without intervention, is the correct decision to take."

Gallop hit back, claiming comments he had made in recent days about Stewart were in reaction to "emotional accusations" from Hasler.

"It remains disappointing that this is being revisited at a time when Brett should be allowed to move on with everyone's support," Gallop said in a statement.

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