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Posted by RLPA

May 17, 2019

RLPA Statement

The Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) understands that the charges brought against Jack de Belin are very serious and therefore deserve to be subject to the criminal justice system. 

As the representative of all Rugby League players, the RLPA reiterates our respect for the processes of the court, and that the complainant in the charges against Mr. de Belin deserves our respect and understanding.

The RLPA is also understanding of the NRL’s attempts to highlight the damage done to the game and our members as a result of the series of incidents reported during off-season period.

The Association repeats its desire to continue to be part of a real solution to these broad societal issues – where our code must live up to our words – that we detest violence against women, and that women and girls must feel safe and welcome in the game at all levels.

The RLPA is, however, disappointed by the decision handed down by the Federal Court in relation to Jack de Belin’s case.

The issues in today’s ruling is the basic right of a person not to be judged prior to facing the justice system, and has implications for all our members, and indeed all professional athletes.

The NRL no-fault stand down policy also goes outside the process and penalties that has been committed to under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. 

Subject to reviewing the decision, the RLPA:

  • Will consider issuing a dispute with the NRL under the Collective Bargaining Agreement in the coming days in relation to the introduction of the no-fault stand down policy
  • Is of the view that introducing the policy without the agreement of the RLPA as the players’ representatives is inconsistent with what has been agreed to under the CBA
  • Remain of the view that the policy is unfair as it prevents individuals such as Mr. de Belin from plying their trade (i.e. playing football) for an indefinite period and will cause irreparable damage to short professional careers
  • Believe the game should only act at the appropriate time, based on objective evidence and respect criminal proceedings
  • Remain committed to developing an alternative approach that better balances the interests of all parties and does not impinge in an unreasonable way on the rights of players

RLPA Chief Executive Officer, Ian Prendergast, said the Association must protect the rights of the individual to a fair trial, and the right to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty.

‘The Association must stand up and defend these rights,’ Mr Prendergast said.

‘I want to make it clear that I realise the seriousness of the charges against Mr. De Belin, and that this is a deeply distressing time for all parties.  

‘The court case must be able to go ahead without interference or presumptions of guilt.

‘We remain open to discuss with the NRL the broader issues facing the code, and I speak on behalf of the playing group when I say that the recent incidents send a message about the game that is not tolerable.

‘If a player, or any person engaged in the game, is guilty of such crimes, particularly any form of violence against women, we support a strong stance being taken.

‘However, the NRL, while seeking to send a message, have breached the rights of all Rugby League players, a breach that has implications for all professional athletes, and it is an issue we must challenge.

‘We remain committed to working with the NRL and clubs to find a better approach to dealing with complex issues of this nature.’

RLPA Chair, Dr Deidre Anderson, said the rights of athletes must be respected when significant changes in policy occur. 

‘It is fundamental that the rights of athletes should be respected when changing any policy that materially impacts their employment – as well as respecting the important role of player representatives,’ Dr Anderson said.

‘It undermines the purpose and significance of the collective bargaining agreement, as well as the role of the RLPA, if the NRL are able to unilaterally change the NRL Rules in a manner that will have a material impact on the players.’

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