Corey Norman will fight his one-game ban and $20,000 fine for his pre-season street brawl, after the players’ union declared players felt unprotected by the NRL.
Norman on Monday received the full backing of new Dragons captain Ben Hunt, who said the punishment handed down to his teammate was “harsh”.
Norman claimed he and former NRL hooker James Segeyaro were blind-sided when a fight broke out after Segeyaro was subjected to racial abuse.
In justifying the one-game ban with another suspended, NRL boss Andrew Abdo said “there was a degree of provocation which led to the incident, but as a game we have been very clear that provocation is not an excuse to engage in a street fight”.
But the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) hit back on Monday after meeting with Norman.
“Corey has our full support in disputing the sanctions outlined in his breach notice,” RLPA Chief Executive Clint Newton said.
“Based on the information we have been provided, our view is that the proposed sanction is particularly unfair.
“We have provided our support and advice to Corey and his management throughout this matter and will continue to do so.
“We’ve also been contacted by a number of players who have shared their feelings of frustration with the lack of protection provided by the game in such instances where they or their fellow players have felt targeted.”
The appeal comes at a time where the RLPA are keen to meet with the NRL over player punishments.
Brisbane pair Kotoni Staggs and Payne Haas have both copped fines – and in Haas’s case a three-game suspension – for separate incidents in the off-season as the ARLC chairman Peter V’landys vows to come down hard on player misbehaviour.
But the RLPA are adamant proposed increased fines are not the answer to improving player behaviour, and are ready to bring independent advice to the table.
“We understand the serious impact integrity matters can have on the game, which is why we want to work with the relevant stakeholders on this area,” Newton said.
“However, any sanction in isolation is not going to achieve the outcomes we should be striving for, which are behavioural change and improved decision making by the very small minority.
“I’m yet to see evidence to suggest that introducing stiffer sanctions is the silver bullet.
“We already have one of the toughest sanctioning regimes across sports.”
Meanwhile Hunt, who car pools with halves partner Norman to training each day, felt the NRL had been heavy-handed.
“It’s pretty tough. The way I see it Corey was standing up for a mate and what’s he meant to do in that situation?,” Hunt said in his first press conference as captain.
“You can’t just stand back and cop it.
“It’s one I’ll leave to the club and NRL to sort out, but from my point (of view) it’s a bit harsh.”
Norman also won support from former Brisbane teammate Alex Glenn on Monday, who claimed players would end up in hospital if they were forced into a position of being unable to defend themselves.