Rugby league player hit with $30,000 fine for not social distancing

SYDNEY, NSW, Australia – Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) has bludgeoned an emerging talent for mixing with a few girls.

NRL players for years have been copping huge fines and suspensions for having a drink and for other more serious misdemeanours, but the latest attacks on Nathan Cleary, the Penrith and State of Origin half-back must be bewildering to him.

Firstly five girls spent some time at his unit which he shares with teammate Tyrone May. There they posed with him for a photo, which unfortunately for everyone ended up on social media. Then he danced with the girls and a video was taken which also made its way to social media.

What did he do wrong? He didn’t follow social media restrictions. Home visits are not allowed during the coronavirus crackdown. His penalty, a proposed $30,000 fine and two match suspensions. Collective punishment is outlawed under UN conventions, but the NRL and others systematically hand out suspensions which penalise an entire team, club, and in this case, potentially a state – if Brad Fittler, coach of New South Wales decides to drop Cleary for what The Daily Telegraph describes as his “deceptive behaviour.”

A lot of commentators have been baying for blood with Phil Gould, the former General Manager of Cleary’s club, and a former NSW State of Origin coach calling for Cleary to be sacked for the entire season. This after the revelation of the first incident.

As the players didn’t tell the integrity unit of the dancing, which became public through social media, the deputy premier of the state similarly wants Cleary banned for the season, calling the 22-year old a liar.

Welcome to the adult world Cleary, two years out of your teens, and make sense of this. It is bullying of the highest order. This was not a malicious act, it was not an attempt to breach the state’s protocols, and it was in his own home.

Of course it was irresponsible, but you can’t beat someone up over being irresponsible. In the weeks ahead we’ll see the entire community of New South Wales try to double down on social distancing as they are set free again, and we’ll see how successful everyone will be at this. Decades of habit is not something that can be broken easily. In other parts of the world, despite all the mantra about what people need to do, as parks and beaches, and pools have reopened, within minutes we’ve seen saturated social distancing breaches. Noone will be deliberately trying to do the wrong thing, but people naturally gravitate towards one another.

Old people inflict these fines and suspensions, mainly on younger people without any regard for the damage they are doing. Cleary could have been fined $1,000, or even $10,000 which together with the way in which he has been humiliated would have been equally as sufficient to pull him into line. In fact the girls were charged by the police and each fined $1,000. If Cleary wasn’t the talented player he is, they would never have been fined, because the incident wouldn’t be the controversy it is. As it is, the girls get fined $1,000, he gets fined $30,000 and is suspended, and if the commentators get their way he’ll be dropped from State of Origin as well.

Counselling Cleary and pointing out the errors of his ways would have been far more effective than what is proposed.

“The National Rugby League (NRL) has issued Penrith player Nathan Cleary with a further amended breach notice,” the official statement from the NRL released on Friday said.

“The notice sets out additional matters to which Cleary has been asked to respond. The additional matters relate to his co-operation with the NRL Integrity Unit. The further amended notice proposes a fine of $30,000 and a two-match suspension, which would be served at the resumption of the NRL competition.”

“Fellow Penrith player, Tyrone May, has also been issued with a breach notice relating to the same matter and his co-operation with the NRL’s investigation. The notice proposes a $15,000 fine and a two-match suspension,” the statement said.

“The notices allege that the players were untruthful in relation to material matters and the proposed sanctions reflect the seriousness of those allegations.”

“Both Players will now have an opportunity to respond to the matters alleged in Breach Notices before a final determination is made,” the NRL said in its statement.

It seems in Australia these days, media, commentators, and even the general public delight in getting stuck into one another. We saw the media-driven gang-tackling of former CEO Todd Greenberg, just as his predecessor Dave Smith was brought down in the same way, and the former Chairman of the AFL John Grant after him.

At least Peter V’landys probably won’t suffer a similar fate as his appointment and every move he makes has been championed by the media monopoly in Australia, Nine (formerly Fairfax) and News Corp, who together are now seemingly being handed an extended 7-year TV rights deal, apparently at reduced rates. No wonder they’re cheering.

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