David and Andrew Fifita. Picture: Getty ImagesAndrew and DavidFifitaare set toappeal 12-month bans imposed by the Penrith District Junior Rugby League as they fight to save theirNRL careers after being stood down by Cronulla until an investigation is completed into allegations the twins abused and threatened a 24-year-old referee.
The Penrith DJRLhanded down the bans on Monday morning after an incident at the conclusion of a localA-Grade match on Saturday in which David Fifita was acting as the on-field trainer for the St Patrick’s Blacktown team, whose assistant coach Matthew Lodge, the Wests Tigers prop, was alsosuspended for the remainder of the season.
The Sharks later announced the Fifita twins had now been stood down but continue to insist they did not have enough evidence to do so before Sunday’s 18-16 win over Canterbury, in which Andrew played, and say the players are set to challenge some of the more serious allegations.
Specifically, they relate to allegations in TimHannon’s official match report that Andrew Fifita had reacted aggressively after the referee attempted to record the abuse from David on his mobile phone and said: “Delete that now or I’ll smash you”.
It is understood that Andrewwill claim he said:”Get that out of my face or I’ll snap your phone”.
Andrew Fifita playing for Griffith Waratah Tigers in 2009. Picture: Anthony Stipo
“The club has today received, and is reviewing and assessing, statements from a variety of people present at the match including match officials, participating club representatives, ground officials and independent witnesses. In assessing these reports it is evident that conflicting versions of events exist,” aCronulla statement said.
“There is a process which must now be allowed to occur to give the players the opportunity to review that information and respond and that process is under way.As a part of that process the players have advised they intend to defend the more serious charges levelled against them.”
With Hannon failing to push the record button on his camera, the case is now set to come down to the word of the twins against that of Hannon and others, including three volunteer officials who allegedly had to physicallyrestrain Andrew Fifita.
Fairfax Media was told the Fifitas believe they may not get a fair hearing because ofa previous incident in which David was suspended for 12 months by the Penrith DJFC in 2011 for abusing a referee.
“The club has been advised that the previously reported video evidence of the alleged incident does not exist,” thestatement said.
David Fifita during a December 2013 trip home to Griffith. Picture: Anthony Stipo
“The players’ legal representatives have expressed their frustration in this regard as they were looking to use this evidence to support their case.
“The club reasserts that it takes the nature of the allegations against its players very seriously and is working with NRL CEODave Smith and the NRL Integrity Unit to ensure that due process is allowed to occur and the appropriate sanctions are put in place once all of the facts are established.”
If it is found that the Fifita twins abused Hannon, they are expected to be banned from playing for the remainder of the season.
The pair have five days to respond. Any suspension by Penrith will not correlate with the NRL, however the twins face further punishment from the game’s governing body if they are found guilty.
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