ARLC commissioners should hand over phones to inquiry

Beattie has told the media he will discuss Coyne’s future on the ARL board with him on his return from Broome, where the chairman is holidaying. Beattie’s critics are asking, “What else is there to know? Coyne has pleaded guilty and admits he did not self-report the offence immediately.”

Beattie’s supporters counter: “He can’t fire him from Broome.”

The demand commissioners should release their electronic records comes amid questions as to who knew the circumstances of Coyne’s arrest and detention in Singapore and when.

Coyne has admitted he was aware of his duty to self-report and club and NRL officials believe it is inconceivable he did not tell anyone in the game about his circumstances.

The commission is the body that publishes the NRL Rules and changes them from time to time, such as the no-fault, stand-down rule introduced earlier this year. To believe that the ARLC feels it doesn’t need to comply with its own rules but accepts the role of setting them is risible. To believe otherwise is to have no credibility.

Coyne’s behaviour in Singapore, apart from his arrest for his drunken, foul-mouthed tirade, demonstrates irrational decision-making from the beginning and his lack of fitness to hold office. It is understood he refused an early offer to hire a local, prominent lawyer, which would have signalled some respect towards the local judiciary. (He has subsequently argued he was demonstrating support for the Singaporean legal system in not self-reporting because a noisy squadron of pesky Australian journalists would have arrived to annoy court officers.)

Mark Coyne arrives back at Sydney airport on Thursday.Credit:Edwina Pickles

He was encouraged very early in Singapore to phone Beattie but he ignored the advice.

Yet, presumably, he informed his company, Employees Mutual Limited, of which he is chief executive. It is understood the chairman of the company twice flew to Singapore to support Coyne.

Coyne seems to value the reputation of that organisation (and its financial future) more than that of the ARLC.

In the unlikely event that the story never got out, Coyne could have flown back into the country, accepted the well-wishes of those of his fellow commissioners who assumed he’d had a horrible ear infection, returned to his seat at the commission table and passed judgement on players and club officials. He should be embarrassed.


The next logical step is the one being called for: an investigation to satisfy the ARLC and its members (the 16 clubs) that the conduct being dealt with is isolated to Coyne only. The cover-up is always worse than the crime.

If Coyne confided in another commissioner, then that commissioner is complicit and should be identified and dismissed. That would be more than a conspiracy to subvert the NRL’s own rules about self-reporting; it would be a conspiracy to obstruct justice (or, more realistically) the proper administration of the NRL Rules.

The broader game must be satisfied that confidence and trust in the commission remains intact. If this isn’t done then there will be a stench around the Coyne affair that the commission will struggle to shake.

Club chairs are aware that only the ARLC can call an inquiry. Furthermore, they ask: who conducts it? The commission itself is hardly independent. Beattie? He is up for re-election in February.

The NRL integrity unit? It has the skills and resources but investigating your bosses is not a clever career move.

Hard-liners insist any enquiry should involve the forensic examination of electronic devices, which is what happens with salary cap investigations. As they point out, the racing industry demands mobile phone records be made available.

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