Black, the owner of TripADeal, pours about $500,000 a year into the Dragons and a similar amount into the Sea Eagles. ‘‘The [stand-down] rule is so flawed it’s beyond words,’’ he said.
The NRL brought in the rule to appease fans and sponsors, but Black – a sponsor – does not share the NRL’s view. Of all the clubs, the Dragons have been hit hardest by the edict, which was championed by former ARL Commission chairman Peter Beattie, and rushed through as the NRL dealt with a range of off-field incidents at the end of 2018. The Dragons have paid de Belin more than $1 million just to train during the past two seasons. De Belin watched on as each season crumbled and former coach Paul McGregor was sacked.
‘‘Of course I’ve got an interest in this as I’m a Dragons supporter and we put money into the club, but my view is not based on that at all,’’ Black said. ‘‘I believe that by being stood down from the game you are immediately cast as being guilty. You tell me what the message sends when a person is not allowed to work when they have a court case pending? It says one thing: you are presumed guilty.
‘‘Walk down the street and see what people say when a bloke is stood down. It creates a feeling of guilt. It’s a one-size-fits-all rule and I think that’s wrong.
‘‘I want to make it very clear that I am not defending Jack de Belin – I don’t know the full details of the case – but what I do know is he has been presumed guilty [by the NRL].
‘‘The same goes for Tristan Sailor [who has been charged with aggravated sexual assault]. Everything I know of Tristan is he is a good kid, but his career is stalled, as is his life. I think he should be allowed to play football until he has his day in court. If he is guilty, then the punishment should start. It’s innocent until proven guilty, not the other way about. I’ve got no doubt the police like big scalps like NRL players and my view is they [players] get a hard time.’’
Sailor has not entered a formal plea, but his lawyer has indicated he will fight the charge.
Black is aware not everyone will agree with his views
‘‘I know that people will say that I am on a soapbox, but the reason that the NRL wanted to bring this in was to get two days of bad press instead of months of it,’’ he said. ‘‘But it has not worked and it becomes like OJ Simpson with everyone bringing it up all the time.’’
The B-word rears its ugly head again
While on de Belin, the police’s phone intercept of his conversation with another NRL player highlights an issue that has existed in league for as long as I can remember: lack of respect for women.
The recording was played during de Belin’s sexual assault trial in Wollongong. When asked who had accused him of sexual assault, de Belin said: ‘‘Some little chick who was hanging around. So me, my mate went back to my cousin’s house. Just had a like f—ing bun, just like a typical f—ing standard bun. And then she’s never once said no, she’s changed position up. It baffles me she’s gone to police.’’
Many will remember Canterbury’s Coffs Harbour scandal in 2004. I fell out with Bulldogs management at the time, and more particularly the late Steve Folkes, when I quoted a Canterbury player saying: ‘‘Some of the boys love a bun. Gang bangs are nothing new to this club or the rugby league.’’
It appears not much has changed.
Shark scare at training
The dangers of off-season training were highlighted by the tragic death of Manly’s Keith Titmuss on November 22. In the same week that happened the Sharks had their own scare. An ambulance had to be called for half Braydon Trindall, who was unwell after a tough fitness session. Thankfully he was OK, but the Titmuss tragedy has clubs on high alert.
The Titmuss family want their son to be remembered and if clubs are now increasing their testing of players and exercising even greater caution, that’s a good thing. The Titmuss family has been amazed by the support they have received from Manly chief executive Stephen Humphreys and Sea Eagles owners the Penn family, who have done everything they can for them in the most difficult time.
Time will tell
Timing is the key to Brent Naden’s immediate playing future. The timing of when he used cocaine. If it was the night before the grand final he will get a minimal ban.
Naden, 24, has been stood down after being notified on Tuesday of a positive sample to metabolites of cocaine from a test taken after Penrith’s 26-20 loss to Melbourne.
Timing is also important for the Panthers. When they knew what Naden did is key. If they found out post-Mad Monday, they are without blame or concern. Any time before that and they will be facing serious questions.
My last interaction with Naden was at a Panthers media day in the lead-up to the grand final, where he spoke about the impact of the racial abuse he copped during the year and the incredible support he then received from people such as Adam Goodes and top NRL players.
There are other theories being put forward about why he went off the rails, outside of the racial abuse. COVID lockdown is one. The isolation from family led to more drinking and then drug use. I’ve been told he was with two people on the night when he used the drug.
Whatever the reason for his drug use, it’s unacceptable and hard to fathom he would do so before a grand final. That’s a worrying indication of his mental state. Let’s hope he gets the help he needs.
Filmmakers want to show the real Nick
He may not have played a match since February, but Nick Kyrgios remains a man in demand.
The 25-year-old has received a number of offers from major international filmmakers to follow his career for a fly-on-the-wall-style documentary in 2021.
Kyrgios is one of the most watched tennis players on the circuit and he is not afraid to tell people what he thinks.
What makes this even more intriguing is the filmmakers want to release the film immediately and not when he has retired, as is the case with so many other athletes, including Michael Jordan with The Last Dance.
Kyrgios has long been a TV ratings hit. His fourth-round match against Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open earlier this year was one of the most watched sporting events of the year. Film executives are confident this appeal will be box office gold.
Ace in the pack
Lleyton Hewitt is now the TV star in his family, and his role is only growing. Hewitt’s wife, Bec, was a big deal on the small screen – starring on Home and Away, among other TV shows – but now Lleyton is taking over. He is on the verge of signing a deal that will see him have an increased role in Channel Nine’s tennis coverage next year, including coverage of Wimbledon and the French Open, which have been secured by Nine.
Sounds of silence
The silence has been deafening from the Gold Coast Titans about the culture issues we highlighted last week. No official has stuck their head up to counter or dispute what we said – that the club was warned that Michael Gordon needed to be pulled into line by former coach Garth Brennan.
Gal starts blue
Paul Gallen is starting to make his mark as a commentator. The former Blues captain has put noses out of joint in the Blues hierarchy, though. He agreed with the claim that the Queensland side was the worst in 40 years. The opinion didn’t bother the Blues when he first said it, but they felt the comment from Gallen helped galvanise the Queensland side. Gallen is paid to give his views these days, so he won’t care. The Blues certainly didn’t lose because Gallen had his say. They lost because they didn’t fire when it mattered the most.
Lock and key
The old firm is very much back together at Manly. The lockers of skipper Daly Cherry-Evans and returning star Kieran Foran are next to each other. Youngster Josh Schuster has been told he is going to be the team’s No.6, so you have to think the locker placements are related to the pair being mates. At least that’s what Schuster would hope. His parents have already met with Manly to get assurances about his status at the club.
Sports news, results and expert commentary delivered straight to your inbox each weekday. Sign up here.
Danny Weidler is a sport columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.