NRL make example of Andrew Fifita

Andrew Fifita walks off after being sin binned during State of Origin earlier in the year. Photo / photosport.nz
Andrew Fifita walks off after being sin binned during State of Origin earlier in the year. Photo / photosport.nz

Cronulla grand final matchwinner Andrew Fifita has become the first player in the 109-year history of Australian rugby league to be banned from representing the prestigious Kangaroos - and that's just the start.

ARL Commission chairman John Grant said the hard-line stance would be adopted at Origin level, while NRL CEO chief executive Todd Greenberg declared it a warning for all NRL players about off-field behaviour.

The NRL firmly instructed Australia's four-member selection panel to overlook Fifita and Parramatta winger Semi Radradra from its 24-man Four Nations squad, which was announced on Tuesday.

"We have drawn a line in the sand around behaviour," Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga said.

"He (Fifita) is one of the best front-rowers in the game, no doubt about it - but there's more to playing for Australian than just ability."

And the NRL's zero tolerance edict on player misbehaviour is now certain to filter back into State of Origin.

"I think you will see this cultural statement flow down to State of Origin as well," ARLC chairman John Grant said.

"There is a very clear understanding now about where we come from that will cause players to think, we hope. The team is better for this (decision), rugby league in Australia is better for this."

The decision to omit Fifita was made despite his rampaging grand final performance for the premiership-winning Sharks. Fifita and Radradra have become the first players ever stopped from representing Australia due to off-field dramas.

Other players in the past have been rubbed out unofficially but never after the game's governing body stepped in to direct selectors.

"I support it," Meninga said of the new NRL edict.

"I believe, in all honesty, that the Kangaroo jersey should be held in high esteem and that all the players should be great role models, not only on the field but off it as well.

"Kangaroo players should be our greatest ambassadors."

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg revealed he told selectors a week ago not to consider Fifita or Radradra.

Some claim the edict sets a "dangerous precedent" although Greenberg stressed each case would be treated "on its merits."

Greenberg denied he instructed the Australian selectors - who pick the Clive Churchill Medal winner - to overlook Fifita for the award.

Fifita is still under investigation by the NRL integrity unit for his support of one-punch killer Kieran Loveridge. The NRL is waiting on additional information from police before announcing any sanctions against Fifita. Radradra was left out after he pleaded not guilty to domestic violence charges in July. He is awaiting trial.

"This is a day that we take a stand against poor behaviour off the field with the ultimate sanction in our sport, missing the chance to represent your own country. I hope every player in the NRL heeds the warnings," Greenberg said.

"Andrew is clearly a talented footballer and played a key role in the Sharks grand final victory. However we believe to wear the Australian jersey, the most prestigious jersey in our game, you should have to distinguish yourself both on and off the field.

Andrew is currently being investigated by the integrity unit after wearing an armband supporting someone convicted of a violence offence. While that may not have been illegal it was in poor taste in the extreme.

"He was suspended for six weeks last year for abusing a junior match official and has been involved in other off-field incidents.

I hope this decision will be seen for what it is - our determination to build a culture in the Kangaroos which every Australian can be proud of. I hope players realise that misbehaviour can in future lead to them missing out on their dream of playing for their country.

I hope Andrew learns from this decision, deals with his off-field issues and returns to the Australian team soon."

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan preferred not to comment with club CEO Lyle Gorman saying: "I'd prefer to speak with Todd directly rather than make a public comment at this stage."

Fifita's manager, Ben Johnston, did not return calls.

- news.com.au

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