Fittler wants NRL to clamp down on Leniu commentary

Scott Bailey |

Brad Fittler wants the NRL to sanction players who have commented on the racism saga.
Brad Fittler wants the NRL to sanction players who have commented on the racism saga.

Brad Fittler has called for the NRL to sanction players who have commented on the Spencer Leniu racism saga, saying they have broken the league’s protocols.

Leniu will front the NRL judiciary on Monday night, having pleaded guilty to using a racial slur against Brisbane five-eighth Ezra Mam in Las Vegas last week.

The Sydney Roosters recruit is expected to be handed the heaviest ever sanction against an NRL player for a racial slur, with a lengthy ban anticipated.

The hearing will also bring to a head a week-long drama for the league, with Leniu’s “monkey” slur having dominated headlines out of the Las Vegas venture.

In the days since, Indigenous All Stars captain Latrell Mitchell was among those to post to Instagram, with the South Sydney star stating “NRL better deal with this s**t”.

Spencer Leniu.
Spencer Leniu will face charges on Monday night over his racial slur against Ezra Mam. (HANDOUT/NRL PHOTOS)

But speaking on The Footy Show, former NSW State of Origin coach Fittler said it was wrong that players had spoken on the matter.

“Why doesn’t everyone ring Ezra? Why does everything have to be done on social media?” Fittler said.

“The NRL has rules where you can’t come out and make comments about situations that are going to judiciary, so they should be in trouble.

“If you want to support Ezra, ring him up. Go and see him. That’s how you support someone.”

AAP has been told there is no plan for the NRL to sanction any player who has commented on the matter.

Fittler also questioned why the hearing had not been held earlier or while still in Las Vegas, in a bid to avoid the sensitive debates that have followed.

His comments came as Paul Gallen claimed “hysteria” over the incident would prompt Leniu to receive a longer ban than he believed the Roosters forward should.

“The hysteria around this has been crazy,” Gallen said.

“If he had pleaded not guilty, he would never have received a fair treatment. Could you imagine a judiciary panel finding him not guilty?

“They would have been destroyed themselves.

“I think eight weeks is too much … I think five or six weeks is enough.”

Ezra Mam looks to pass during the game in Las Vegas.
Mam was heard via onfield microphone alleging Leniu had called him a “monkey”. (HANDOUT/NRL PHOTOS)

The NRL has had a limited history with on-field slurs in recent years.

Warriors winger Marcelo Montoya was banned for four weeks in 2022 for a homophobic slur, but that was picked up on microphone and was not the subject of a player complaint.

Tyrone Peachey claimed Mitchell Barnett made a slur against him in 2020, but the investigation was closed when reviews of audio and visual footage uncovered no evidence.

Gallen was fined $10,000 by the NRL for a racial slur against St George Illawarra’s Mickey Paea in 2009, prompting him to step down as Cronulla captain and issue a public apology.

Bryan Fletcher was also suspended for one match and lost the captaincy of South Sydney for a racist remark in 2005.

In other sports, the AFL suspended Adelaide star Taylor Walker for six weeks in 2021 for a racist comment against a Crows clubmate at an SANFL match.

Mam will not be required to speak at Monday night’s hearing, but he and Broncos teammates Payne Haas and Billy Walters have provided statements to the NRL.

Leniu’s early guilty plea can be taken into account by the panel when finalising his ban, with the Roosters prop having claimed he did not realise the racial connotations of his remark.