National News

Fonua-Blake escapes longer ban, fined $20k

Manly front-rower Addin Fonua-Blake has escaped any additional ban for breaching the NRL's anti-vilification code and instead been fined $20,000.

Already suspended for two games for contrary conduct, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said Fonua-Blake had shown genuine remorse for calling referee Grant Atkins a "f***ing retard."

The Sea Eagles firebrand will also volunteer as a referee in wheelchair rugby league, with his fine to help buy new wheelchairs for the sport.

"What happened on the field was divisive, and it's not what we stand for as a game," Abdo said.

"Addin's words and his actions were contrary to the anti-vilification code which exists in the NRL's rules for all players and registered officials."

Fonua-Blake will also undergo further education and rehabilitation directed by the NRL.

The decision takes into account both Fonua-Blake's comments on the field, and another spray in the dressing rooms which included the term "spastics."

The call was made in conjunction with Manly after Abdo met with the 24-year-old on Thursday.

"I found Addin to be genuinely remorseful and found him to be quite engaged in the discussion," Abdo said.

"I don't speak on his behalf, but my interpretation of the discussion was sometimes players in the heat of the moment don't understand the impact of what they are saying with how that will make someone feel.

"That's not an excuse for the behaviour and I made that clear. Neither is ignorance around the language we use.

"But I don't believe Addin meant to offend the group of people he did offend with this. I believe he has learned through this process."

As part of changes stemming from the incident, Abdo will also recommend to the commission that any serious referee abuse or intimidation is referred straight to the judiciary.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys has already stated he wants tougher punishments to ensure players do not disparage any person living with a disability.

Initially hit with a grade-three contrary conduct charge, Fonua-Blake took the early guilty plea and a two-match ban for the incident earlier this week.

But the NRL then stepped up their probe determining the Manly player had breached their anti-vilification code and launched an investigation.

Abdo on Friday defended the decision not to impose a further ban on Fonua-Blake for the breach.

"Our focus here was getting the balance right," Abdo said.

"Our focus was around rehabilitation and education.

"Increasing the suspension is an easy decision but what is more important is driving change in attitudes.

"I don't believe that increasing the match ban would have made the difference in order to take a positive out of this situation.

"But everyone is entitled to their views on that.

"Missing two matches, $20,000 and a significant set of responsibilities I believe was appropriate in this circumstance."

Fonua-Blake accepted the fine, as Manly boss Stephen Humphreys apologised on behalf of the club.

"Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, including Addin Fonua-Blake and all of his teammates, take great learning from this most regrettable experience," Humphreys said.

"But we can, and will, also use it as inspiration to become a strong and active advocate for the Disability Community and their rights."

© AAP 2020