Wayne Heming, Ian McCullough -Apr 12, 2012
Australian Rugby League Commission chief executive David Gallop believes the decision to ban North Queensland halfback Robert Lui for the 2012 NRL season sent a clear message rugby league will not tolerate violence against women.
Cronulla winger Isaac Gordon was also banned for nine matches in relation to another domestic violence matter late last year.
Lui pleaded guilty last month to assaulting his partner Taleah Rae Backo following Mad Monday celebrations in September while he was playing for the Wests Tigers.
He was subsequently suspended and then released by the Tigers before being picked up by North Queensland.
The suspension places the 22-year-old's playing future in doubt.
The Cowboys yesterday announced a counselling program that will continue to assist Backo, Lui and their son over the coming months.
Gordon, who has been serving an indefinite suspension since round nine last season, will now be eligible to play in round 10 after he pleaded guilty to a lesser assault charge than Lui.
Gallop met with the Cowboys before announcing the decision to ban Lui for the 2012 season.
''We are at the forefront of campaigns in relation to domestic violence and we take seriously our position within the community to send the right message in relation to that,'' Gallop said yesterday.
However, he stressed the NRL would continue to look at cases individually despite external community pressure calling for much tougher penalties.
''We'll look at each case in relation to its circumstances,'' he said.
''We don't support blanket bans but we do believe the game has a responsibility to send strong messages in this area.''
Gallop said it had taken time to announce the penalties because of the sensitive process they needed to go through.
''These are complicated issues. Certainly understanding the players' commitment to be part of counselling services is part of that and that's taken some time,'' he said.
Gallop and the commission have come under pressure to take a strong stance following a petition launched last week calling for an automatic one-year ban for offenders, which has already attracted more than 20,000 signatures.
It also led to some of its major sponsors receiving posts on their Facebook pages from consumers warning of a backlash if they failed to apply some pressure on the NRL to take a much tougher stand.
''Many, many people in the community have a strong view on this issue,'' Gallop said.
''We've been at the forefront of the White Ribbon campaign and campaigns to send the right message in relation to violence against women. Those petitions are a demonstration of the way people feel about this issue and we're certainly part of that.''
Gallop stopped short of saying the next player to offend could pay the ultimate penalty.
He said Gordon had been banned for only nine weeks because his was a lesser charge than Lui's. AAP