While there is no set policy regarding what clubs must tell the NRL about off-field misbehaviour, the expectation is clubs should report any incident involving a player that could bring the game into disrepute. From there, the integrity unit can investigate and determine whether any action is necessary.
Walker was cleared of further punishment on Wednesday afternoon by NSW Police after an investigation of the fight, but the playmaker still faces a possible suspension from the NRL.
Bennett also faces a fine when the investigation is wrapped up in the next 48 hours. The NRL has the option to fine Souths – a course of action they took in 2015 when the club was deemed to have not properly investigated the Arizona pre-season scandal – but sources have told the Herald Bennett was the only Rabbitohs official who knew of the Walker incident.
On Wednesday, Souths teammate Dane Gagai said Walker gave a personal “heads up” to teammates ahead of the investigation.
“He let us know what was going on and we as a team we’re going to support every single one of our players,” Gagai said. “He let us know what happened, but it’s under investigation and they are going through that now.”
Gagai also said Walker assured teammates the headlines would not be yet another distraction for the Rabbitohs, who have had a number of troubled weeks ahead of the May 28 NRL restart date.
“He just reassured us that it wasn’t gonna distract him from his main goal and that’s to be here with us boys and try to win a premiership,” he said. “The way he’s been shining and the way we’ve all been training, there’s no sign that that’s been a distraction.”
The integrity unit will also deliver a final verdict on the fates of Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr and their role in the social distancing scandal at Mitchell’s farm on the North Coast of NSW when it reveals its sanctions for Walker and Bennett in the next 48 hours.
Mitchell and Addo-Carr have fought hard against the severity of their punishments after they received $50,000 fines, 60 per cent of which was suspended.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys would not comment when asked about Bennett’s course of action on Wednesday.
“Every party in these situations deserves due process and natural justice,” V’landys said. “I’m arms length from the investigation, as I should be. The investigation should occur independently and without fear or favour, and that’s exactly what is happening.”
Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Sarah is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.