League: NRL gives Gower his final warning

SYDNEY - Disgraced former Penrith Panthers captain Craig Gower has been handed a final warning by the National Rugby League in the wake of the halfback's drunken antics at a charity golf event last month.

The Kangaroos tourist was accused of groping the teenage daughter of league legend Wayne Pearce and threatening Pearce's son before stripping naked as Gower's pre-wedding celebrations got out of hand.

Gower was subsequently stripped of the Penrith captaincy, being replaced for the 2006 season by Kiwis second rower Tony Puletua.

He also copped a A$100,000 ($111,300) fine - A$70,000 suspended - with the balance to be paid to an NRL programme encouraging the responsible use of alcohol by league players.

The NRL could have imposed further penalties but chief executive David Gallop was content to issue Gower - who was kicked out of the Kangaroos in 1999 for exposing himself to a woman in a bar - a final warning.

Gower and his manager Greg Willett met Gallop last week.

"I encouraged him to concentrate on his footy but he is well aware he can't find himself in this situation again," Gallop said.

"Although they thought the penalty [by Penrith] was too harsh, they accepted that aspects of Craig's behaviour were unacceptable and against what the game is working hard on."

While the Gower groping issue is considered over, Willett said he was unhappy about how the Panthers had dealt with the matter. "They ridiculed Craig. He's definitely hurting."

Willett ruled out a legal challenge to the fine, saying: "It would cost too much. You need A$100,000 before you can start any legal proceedings."

Meanwhile, contrary to speculation, Gower will still marry former cheerleader and Footy Show regular Amanda Flynn on Saturday.

There had been rumours that the wedding had been postponed but Willett was adamant the rumours were rubbish.

- NZPA

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