Deregister sacked players: Gould

Panthers boss and league pundit Phil Gould believes NRL stars should face immediate deregistration when they are sacked for bad behaviour by their clubs in the future.

Gould’s strong stance comes with poor behaviour by NRL stars in the spotlight. This week, Canberra’s NSW winger Blake Ferguson was stood down from State of Origin II as well as club duties after being charged with indecent assault following a night out with St George Illawarra fullback Josh Dugan. South Sydney prop George Burgess was also stood down for two matches after causing damage to a car during a night out in Cairns.

The plight of Canberra, who sacked Dugan for repeated misdemeanours only to see him resurface at St George Illawarra and are now deciding Ferguson’s fate, was used by Gould to show that the NRL needed to get tougher on players who had been terminated by a club.

He said the NRL’s Integrity Unit needed to take decisions away from the clubs.

“The recurrence of these incidents, and very serious incidents, and the fact that the players just don’t seem to be getting the message . . . I think this Integrity Unit has got to stand up and start to make some real rules about these things, to take it out of the hands of the club,” the former Origin coach said on Fairfax Media’s The Phil Gould Show. “The club, Canberra Raiders, over the years have had to lose players like Todd Carney and more recently Josh Dugan . . . they’re in the spotlight to lose a bloke like Blake Ferguson if he goes again. They’re reluctant to lose him, because they want to compete, and they want to win, but it should be the game saying, ‘if you don’t respect being a professional footballer, you should be gone’.”

Gould, the Panthers executive general manager of rugby league, said it had reached the point where “the game just has to deregister them”

“And in the instance of Blake Ferguson – he’s due his day in court, and we can’t assume guilt until that’s proven in court – but if it comes down that serious charges like this, put them out of the game. I think that’s the only deterrent,” he said.

“You have a club that will sack a player for . . . behavioural issues, only to see that player reappear with another club down the track, if he’s talented, playing against them.

“Let’s use the Dugan case. Canberra Raiders sacked Dugan at the start of this year, and within a month, he’s playing with the Dragons, he’s on good money, and now he’s got a Blues jersey. How do you explain that? How, as a game, do we justify that, that a player can be sacked from a club, for breach of behaviour . . . then be rewarded with a Blues jersey?

“That’s not a deterrent, at all. I think the game really needs to be serious about this, and if a club sacks a player for breach of behaviour, then they need to be deregistered for a couple of years, as a real deterrent for what they’re doing.”

Gould added the Integrity Unit needed to consider the effect that instances like those of this week had on the clubs and the game, when players “continually thumb their nose at the system and authority, and think they’re bigger than the game”.

“In 35 years, I’ve seen it all,” Gould said. “I’ve supported players, and I’ve stuck up for them, and I’ve given them second chances. It’s wearing me out, to be honest.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.