The NRL must come down hard on David Fifita, says Robert Craddock. Picture: Craig Golding
The NRL must come down hard on David Fifita, says Robert Craddock. Picture: Craig Golding

Craddock: NRL have no choice but to hit Fifita hard

David Fifita won't have to go to trial for his reckless deeds in Bali … but the game of rugby league will.

After four cases of inexcusable off-field player behaviour in the last month, pressure is mounting on the game's administrators to live up to the words of chief executive Todd Greenberg in January this year.

"Take it as read: the first time we put the hammer down this year, it's going to be harder and bigger,'' Greenberg told Fairfax.

 

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The NRL must come down hard on David Fifita, says Robert Craddock. Picture: Craig Golding
The NRL must come down hard on David Fifita, says Robert Craddock. Picture: Craig Golding

 

"And if anyone says, 'What about?' There will be no 'what about?' We're in a new era now. It's a reset. The commission has given me strong guidance to go harder. The deterrents aren't working.''

Guess what? Nine months on they are still not working.

Greenberg's threats appear to have as much impact as a raindrop on a roof-tile.

The big whack just hasn't arrived so the game just drifts on from one shoddy performance to the next, from a Josh Dugan nightclub altercation in North Queensland to two Bali incidents and Manly NRL player Manese Fainu being charged for stabbing a man outside a church.

 

Fifita came to a peace agreement with the security guard involved. Picture: Supplied
Fifita came to a peace agreement with the security guard involved. Picture: Supplied

 

People in rugby league cannot see the forest for the trees. They don't realise how desperately the game needs a wake-up call that jolts its players.

Rugby league did a good job introducing the no-fault rule which stands down players facing a possible 11-year jail term.

Rattling that big sabre was fine but the vast majority of offences are less than that and still need firm action.

Either the Broncos or the NRL Integrity Unit will hand down a penalty for Fifita.

 

The NRL Integrity Unit will determine a punishment for Fifita. Picture: Bianca De Marchi
The NRL Integrity Unit will determine a punishment for Fifita. Picture: Bianca De Marchi

 

The question begs … will they be bold enough to take strong action against one of the game's best young stars?

No matter how stiff the punishment handed down to Fifita he can consider himself lucky to still be playing at all.

Had not a peace agreement been reached with the man he allegedly punched in Bali, Fifita would have been threatened with a two-year jail sentence.

But on Tuesday he returns with no strike against his name and no sense that anything he has done will stop the bidding war for his services for his next contract.

He is on course to become the game's next million dollar player, a rating which should be a badge of honour but comes with its own pressures because many of the million dollar men have struggled with the instant pressures of that mantle.

The seasoned, battle-hardened professionals like Daly Cherry-Evans and Jason Taumalolo have earnt their seven-figure pay cheques so honourably that their salaries are barely even mentioned any more.

But for the likes of Anthony Milford, Ben Hunt and Ash Taylor, who were paid on potential as much as performance, life has been a constant battle.