Suspending Souths star Cody Walker would be madness


Instead of watching his mate get whacked with a Bintang, Asofa-Solomona whacked with his fists first. Didn’t matter, said the NRL, and the enormous Storm forward was rubbed out for three internationals.

If that’s any sort of precedent, Walker faces a four-match ban given Tests hold more weight than home-and-away games.

Cody Walker and Wayne Bennett.Credit:Getty

The 30-year-old was in his hometown of Casino in December last year, attending the funeral of a relative, when a street fight broke out.

Footage emerged this week of Walker flying through the air like Neo from The Matrix, kicking one of the main protagonists in the chest.

Given Walker should’ve had his arm in a sling because of a shoulder reconstruction, the flying kick was probably the better option in the eyes of the Rabbitohs medical staff.

Like Asofa-Solomona, Walker was also defending his friend — in this case, his cousin — but in anyone’s language it was a king hit.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona was sanctioned after a brawl in Bali.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona was sanctioned after a brawl in Bali.Credit:Getty Images

The problem with all this is that neither Walker nor Asofa-Solomona should be punished at all. A fine at worst.

Neither player was charged by police. Neither player was the subject of a complaint from the general public. But Asofa-Solomona was sanctioned because a bystander filmed the incident on his phone. As for Walker, we’re only talking about any of this because someone tried to blackmail him for $20,000 in exchange for the footage.

Yes, we understand the importance of protecting “the image of the great game of rugby league” and so on. Don’t bring the game into “disrepute” and all that jazz. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, got the snow dome.

But the integrity unit is overstepping its mark with increasing regularity, and Walker looms as another example.

The NRL will forever be haunted by the eight-game ban and $125,000 fine it handed down to then Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce for his drunken dalliance with a dog.

Again, we only learned about that because an even bigger dog wanted to cash-in by selling the video footage to TV networks.

The Bulldogs’ Mad Monday celebrations two years ago also spring to mind. Canterbury were slapped with a $250,000 fine — the largest for behavioural issues in NRL history — and players Adam Elliott, Asipeli Fine and Marcelo Montoya hung out to dry like criminals.

The only reason we heard about it was because News Corp shadowed the group around during their end-of-season celebrations and had strategically placed photographers with telephoto lenses peering into a private function at the Harbour View Hotel.

Loading

Once again, there were no police charges, no complaint from the public. I phoned the bar at the height of that non-incident. Couldn’t care less, they said. It was a private function.

While Walker faces a suspension, his coach, Wayne Bennett, — or the club itself — faces a potential fine for not reporting the incident to the integrity unit in the first place.

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall on Tuesday afternoon as chief investigator Karyn Murphy grilled Bennett, asking him to explain himself. Bennett is a former Queensland copper, while Murphy is a former Gold Coast detective.

Bennett knew of the incident but didn’t tell Souths chief executive Blake Solly or then head of football Shane Richardson.

There wasn’t much Bennett could’ve told Murphy that he hadn’t earlier told the Herald’s Christian Nicolussi the day before, when Bennett said it was “immaterial” if he knew about the Walker incident because “nobody had made a complaint”.

Most NRL clubs will notify the integrity unit these days if a player so much as farts in the wrong direction, fearing they’ll be accused of the dreaded “cover-up”.

Bennett’s loyalty to his players, as much as his ego, precludes him from doing so, especially when there’s been no police action or complaint made.

At the very least, he should’ve told Solly and or Shane Richardson. But he’s got a point.

Rival fans immediately wrote it off as a rort. Wasn’t he medically retired?! Ah, no. That was made pretty clear at the time.

The last people who could complain were club bosses, who had expressed no complaints in a chief executives’ meeting in May last year.

“I note that clubs were supportive of the [salary cap] auditor’s approach we explained at the meeting so I expect you will mirror that support when approached by the media,” NRL chief operating Nick Weeks wrote in a follow-up email. “The principles applied to the Rabbitohs submission are consistent with past applications and will be applied in the same way for future applications.”

Summons special

St George captain Norm Provan and Wests counterpart Arthur Summons had uttered only a handful of words to each other before that fateful moment at the end of the 1963 grand final when Sun-Herald photographer John O’Gready snapped them in the mud at the SCG.

Bond: Arthur Summons with Norm Provan and the trophy bearing their likeness in 2013.

Bond: Arthur Summons with Norm Provan and the trophy bearing their likeness in 2013.Credit:Marco Del Grande

But from that moment on, and especially so as the image became the premiership trophy, they became lifelong friends.

Summons, a true rugby league man, passed away this week aged 84.

“It’s surreal, what happened from that photo being taken,” Summons said at the SCG in 2013 to mark the 50th anniversary of the match. “Our images being used for the premiership trophy … it’s beyond my ability to explain it. The mud helped make it, we look like statues and a statue they made from it. We’re epitomised for as long as they play for that trophy. We’ll be long gone and they’ll still be playing for it because it is rugby league.”

The week

THE QUOTE

“Don’t ever talk trash to Black Jesus.” — Michael Jordan’s sledge to a young Reggie Miller, as retold in the final episodes of The Last Dance.

THUMBS UP

The New Zealand Warriors performed a spine-tingling haka — is the haka anything but “spine-tingling”? — for the good folk of Tamworth, which hosted the NRL nomads as they prepare for the start of the season. Thanks Warriors. Thanks Tamworth.

THUMBS DOWN

Shane Warne has branded Steve Waugh “the most selfish cricketer I’ve ever played with” for about the 63rd time since they both retired. Waugh’s dignified response: “His comments are a reflection of himself, nothing to do with me. That’s all I’d say.”

It’s a big weekend for … footy fans as we count down the days, hours, minutes until the NRL season starts again and we finally have some meaning again in our wretched, godforsaken lives.

It’s an even bigger weekend for … my UberEATS account. (Sorry, I’m running out of things to write in this space).

Most Viewed in Sport

Loading



Rugby

Related posts

Make a comment