COMMENT: Country Rugby League's 'unprofessional' handling of Astley Cup brawl

The following article was published in Dubbo's Daily Liberal newspaper on Friday, July 11

TWO weeks ago one of the ugliest incidents to be seen on a sporting field in Dubbo for a long time happened when the Astley Cup rugby league match between Dubbo College Senior Campus and Orange High School was called off early after a brawl erupted.

Earlier this week the Country Rugby League held a special judiciary hearing for players cited out of the melee, however the suspensions handed down to the players remain a mystery.

The back page of a newspaper isn't usually where you would find an opinion piece, but when you're mad about something then why not bend the rules.

For the past four days the Daily Liberal, and other media outlets in the region, have been chasing information about suspensions handed down to six players cited out of last month's Astley Cup brawl involving players from Dubbo College and Orange High.

Not school suspensions, but suspensions that will keep them off football fields in the future.

This was an incident that happened in public, was shown on thousands of television screens that night (and watched on a few computers too), made it to the national news, and it is in the public interest to know what happened to the players found guilty.

"The way the CRL has handled this matter in recent days has been unprofessional to say the least and has drawn out an issue that could have been over, done with, and almost forgotten by now"

It's no secret the players fronted a judiciary hearing in Wellington on Monday, but the hearing was lengthy and no details were available that day.

We did the right thing. We waited for a release and official confirmation from the Country Rugby League (CRL) rather than just finding a way to get the information and running with it.

And on Tuesday we waited. And on Wednesday we waited. And on Thursday we waited again... until 5.03pm.

That was the time this weak statement came through.

"The Country Rugby League has finalised its disciplinary action in relation to the Astley Cup rugby league match played on June 26, 2014," the statement said.

"Six players have been notified of their suspensions following the CRL judiciary hearing conducted at Wellington on Monday.

STORY: LEAGUE BRAWL SUSPENSIONS REMAIN A MYSTERY

"With an obligation to protect the privacy of players involved in the incident, there will be no further comment or details released to the public by the Country Rugby League."

Really? Three days and that is what you come up with?

The way the CRL has handled this matter in recent days has been unprofessional to say the least and has drawn out an issue that could have been over, done with, and almost forgotten by now.

We never wanted to name the players or identify them, but there is a right to know how long they have been banned from rugby league for.

The CRL had a chance to take a stance and set an example here and they missed it.

Why try and stamp this behaviour out of the game and then keep your response to it quiet?

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