Titans coach Garth Brennan has thrown his weight behind the NRL’s new hardline stance on player behavior, saying the game needed to make people “proud to be a rugby league supporter” again.
A former police officer and prosecutor, Brennan is better qualified than many in the NRL to comment about the NRL’s new “no blame” policy where players facing serious criminal charges are stood down from playing.
Brennan said he was pleased the Australian Rugby League took its time to consider the ramifications of such a dramatic policy change, which was announced by ARLC Chairman Peter Beattie and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg on Thursday.
The Titans coach said the game’s administrators were forced into taking a stand after an off-season of disgrace that had embarrassed the code.
“I think the NRL had to do something,” Brennan said. “It is a case where, on the back of the off-season that we have had, the blight that it has put on the game is quite embarrassing for everyone involved in the game.
“I am an ex-police officer with 18 years in the job … any violence towards women or children should not be accepted at any stage or in any environment or in any culture.
“The NRL had to do something. It was a tough decision, there is no doubt about that.”
Brennan said the experience of employees in other industries that were stood down while facing criminal charges meant the game’s stance did not impinge on the presumption of innocence for any player in that situation.
“The player needs to be considered innocent until proven guilty. But in saying that – I was a police officer, and if I was charged with an offence of some sort, I would have been stood down immediately, subject to full pay.
“There’s a lot of employment situations where that is reflected – whether it be politicians, whether it be doctors, or whether it be firefighters. If they commit a charge, then they get stood down, subject to going through the right proceedings.
“The only argument you can throw to that is, if you are a police officer and you get stood down for two years, you’ve got a 35-year career. It is not a big chunk out of your career, whereas a rugby league player might have a 10-year window.
“Two years out of the game, well that is a fifth of your career gone, and then you’ve obviously got State of Origin and representative commitments or grand finals that they might miss out on.
“At the end of the day, no one is bigger than the game. And I think it is important that the sponsors and the fans the members of all the clubs can be proud to be a rugby league supporter.
“Over the last six months, I don’t think that is the case.
“Something needed to be done. I put my utmost faith in Todd and Peter Beattie to make the right decisions.
“That is what they have gone with, and I think we all should get behind it, and hopefully take the game forward.”