Andrew Fifita’s Cronulla team-mate James Maloney says the omission of the Sharks prop from Australia’s Four Nations side is a questionable call.
Fifita and Parramatta winger Semi Radradra were both ineligible for selection in the 24-man squad after management expressed concern the pair’s indiscretions could prove a distraction.
The NRL integrity unit is investigating Fifita after he wrote what was believed to be a message of support for convicted one-punch killer Kieran Loveridge on his wrist strapping, while Radradra has pleaded not guilty to domestic violence charges.
But squad member Maloney, who played alongside Fifita in the Sharks’ maiden premiership victory on Sunday, said it was risky to start punishing people before they were technically convicted of anything.
“I think you’re blurring some lines when you make them ineligible … when they haven’t been convicted of anything now,” Maloney said.
“If it all blows over and nothing comes of it then they’ve missed opportunities when they haven’t actually been punished for doing anything wrong.”
Australia captain Cameron Smith, who lost out to Maloney, Fifita and the Sharks in the grand final, said he held out hope of seeing Fifita and Radradra don green and gold.
He supported coach Mal Meninga and the NRL’s decision not to consider the pair for selection, but said they could earn back their spots in the squad.
“Those two guys, they have issues away from football that they need to sort out and I think it’s the correct decision that’s been made,” he said.
“I think it’s the correct decision that’s been made by the NRL for those guys not to be available for this tour. And the [Rugby League Players’ Association] have backed it as well.
“I’m hopeful that they’ll have the opportunity to represent Australia again because they’re both very talented footballers – we’ve seen that this season.
“I’m sure that if they work hard, then they’ll get an opportunity to play again.”
Kangaroos jersey comes with ‘greater responsibility’, Cronk says
Four-time Dally M Medal winner Johnathan Thurston on Wednesday backed the higher-ups’ hard-line stance on players who brought the game into disrepute, and his halves partner in the upcoming tournament was also on board.
Smith’s Melbourne Storm team-mate Cooper Cronk said players who pulled on the Kangaroos jersey had “a greater responsibility to the game”.
“We’ve got to uphold the values, the ethics and what we stand by,” the two-time Dally M winner said.
“And we’ve got a responsibility to get kids and other people to follow our game and one day maybe pull on the Australian jersey.
“You do a personal indiscretion, you shouldn’t be a part of it, it’s as simple as that. Depending on the magnitude of it.”