Fittler backs NRL’s call to uphold JWH ban for Vegas

Jasper Bruce |

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will miss the Roosters’ NRL season-opener in Las Vegas.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will miss the Roosters’ NRL season-opener in Las Vegas.

Sydney Roosters club legend Brad Fittler has backed the NRL’s decision to prevent the suspended Jared Waerea-Hargreaves from featuring in its opening round in Las Vegas.

Fittler believes next month’s ambitious American sojourn cannot possibly fail and will have ample star power even without the banned Roosters prop.

The NRL suspended Waerea-Hargreaves for seven games after he put a late hit on Api Koroisau and headbutted Stefano Utoikamanu during a clash with Wests Tigers last August.

Waerea-Hargreaves missed the Roosters’ last three games of the season along with New Zealand’s fixtures in the Pacific Test series, leaving him with one match left to serve.

The Roosters applied to have this month’s pre-season All Stars match also count towards Waerea-Hargreaves’ ban, given the prop is available for selection in the Maori side.

But the NRL judiciary rejected that appeal this week, leaving the 35-year-old to sit out the Roosters’ season-opener against Brisbane at Las Vegas’s Allegiant Stadium.

Sydney Roosters legend Brad Fittler.
Roosters legend Brad Fittler says he can understand why the NRL upheld Waerea-Hargreaves’ Vegas ban. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

“Surely we could’ve done something about that,” Fittler joked.

Speaking more seriously, the former NSW coach and 200-game Rooster said he had come to better appreciate the decision-making by those at front office since starting a new role in pathways at the NRL.

“I’d have to go back and see what he did to see the whole fairness of the situation,” he said.

“(But) the one thing I do learn is a lot of people in this building (NRL headquarters), they love the game, they spend a lot of time in the detail of the game.

“I’m assuming Jared deserved the time off.”

Fittler will travel to Las Vegas as part of the round one double-header, which will feature the NRL’s first matches for premiership points outside of Oceania.

Manly and South Sydney will meet in the first game before the Broncos take on the Roosters.

The league has long insisted the double-header is a pitch to break into the American sports market and begin a long-term presence in the country.

“This’ll be one of those moments, ‘Where were you when the first game was played in Vegas?’,” Fittler said.

“I can’t see how it will fail. The teams we’re taking over, they’ve got such unique characters so hopefully we get a chance to see that leading into the game.

“We’ve got our best players, the best clubs and it’s the best product.”

Fittler pointed to the similarities between rugby league and American football – the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders play at Allegiant Stadium – as grounds for his confidence.

“Our games are so alike,” he said.

“The contact, just even the way our teams line up every play. Our game rolls, but I feel like they’ll like that side of the game.

“If we can just promote it and get it out there enough, it’s only a matter of time before we make some real in-roads into America.”