Greenberg vents frustrations at club CEOs and captains over off-field incidents

Todd Greenberg vented his frustrations at the recent anti-social behaviour in the NRL to club CEOs and captains during an unprecedented phone hook-up on Monday, warning them about the damage these acts cause the game.

The NRL chief executive told them the series of off-field incidents was unacceptable and told them that any player found guilty of violence against women would face heavier sanctions than those previously handed down.

Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith told fellow club captains that players weren't living up to their part of the deal in being partners in the game.

Greenberg also warned that players featuring in any inappropriate videos that became public – regardless of how old they were – and any player sharing inappropriate videos on supposedly private groups such as WhatsApp would also be sanctioned.

"To their credit, there were captains stepping off training paddocks and every single one of them jumped on the call, so it was really important," Greenberg said.

Storm captain Cameron Smith.
Storm captain Cameron Smith.

"I told them that I felt the last few months had been unbelievably damaging for the game and we should be better than we are.

"I said to them that this is not just my responsibility, I need all of your help. You guys need to go back to your clubs and speak to your players about expectation because what I have seen is just not good enough."

Many senior players are embarrassed about the negative headlines since the end of the first season under a new collective bargaining agreement between the RLPA and the NRL, which made the players partners in the game.

"Cameron Smith said this on the call today," Greenberg said. "He said 'a year ago I was actively involved with Todd to do the collective bargaining agreement and we have got a great deal, and we are partners. But we are not living up to our end of the bargain and we have got to be better.' I think he summed it up pretty well."

As a former Canterbury CEO, Greenberg is aware that players are likely to take more notice of their captains or coaches than club officials.

"We have some unbelievably talented and strong leaders across our clubs and I need their help," he said.

"I need them to stand up in front of their playing groups and call out behaviour that is not appropriate. Some of the things I have seen are just ridiculous, dumb and inappropriate.

"I need the senior players to call that out in their own squads and clubs and say that is not who we are as a game or a sport, and we are not going to stand by and see that happen."

Asked whether action could be taken over videos that were made public several years after they had been filmed, Greenberg said any player whose actions bought the game into disrepute faced sanction.

"If the game's brand gets damaged, whether it happens five minutes ago or five years ago and it is damaged because the players are doing the wrong thing or inappropriate things or dumb things and it gets out there will be consequences," he said.

"I also said to them that if you post something on a WhatsApp [or similar] group we will treat it exactly the same as if you post it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram because the propensity for it to get out is almost certain.

"People are looking obviously as we are at who is distributing this information and there are laws in place for that but beyond that, and this is the message I gave to the players, don't look to blame others for who is sending this stuff out.

"Have some accountability yourselves and not video it in the first place and then don't put it in WhatsApp groups because at its very core it is dumb, it is immature, it is idiotic and it can be very damaging to you individually because you put your livelihood at risk and in the hands of other people, you damage the club you are playing for and importantly from where I sit you damage the game, and I am not going to stand around and let that happen."

Greenberg said the NRL would wait for players facing criminal charges to have their day in court, but if found guilty he promised the penalties would be tough.

"These are very serious criminal charges and if players are found guilty of those serious criminal charges they will face a significant time out of the game if ever playing again," he said.

"Violence against women and charges that relate to violence against women will take the very highest accountability so you can expect very big sanctions against that, and people who want to start comparing our sanctions against previous ones should probably start again because there is going to be a reset and we are going to get harder and we are going to get tougher."