AS the controversy surrounding Wests Tigers centre Tim Simona’s gambling actions continues, the NRL has revealed it told its players to delete gambling apps from their phones in order to safeguard against the prohibited act.
NRL players and their families and friends are banned from gambling on games.
But that allegedly did not stop Simona from doing so, with revelations he placed bets on opposing players he was marking to score tries, which has him serving a provisional suspension while the NRL probes his actions.
NRL boss Todd Greenberg told Triple M this morning that the league’s integrity unit head Nick Weeks had urged players to delete the apps from their phones last year, during a series of briefings aimed at promoting awareness of gambling.
“Last year I visited all 16 clubs and I had Nick Weeks, who heads up our integrity unit, with me,” Greenberg said.
“I remember (he said) … ‘if you’ve got apps on your phone and you want to bet on other sports that’s entirely your choice.
“But my strong advice to you is have those apps off your phone because in three clicks you could be betting on something.
“You might enjoy that in other things, in racing or other sports, but if you’re a fully-fledged NRL contracted player our strong advice was stay away from it.
“It was super and crystal clear to every player that we visited and should be in the future.”
Simona is set to face the NRL integrity unit this week, after requesting an extension to respond to the serious allegations that are threatening his career.
Ask if Simona would be slapped with a life ban, Greenberg sat on the fence.
“Obviously there are always two sides to every story and we’ve got to deal with facts and evidence but some of the things I’ve seen and read … just can’t be stood for in the game,” Greenberg said.
“There are things that happen in the game where people make errors and mistakes and I think the game has been very forgiving over a period of time.
“It has a great history and track record of making sure people get second chances.
“But there are also things that absolutely are the fundamental integrity of the sport itself and this is one of those.
“I’ve seen so much education provided to young footballers about what they can and can’t do.
“It goes from whether it’s drugs or whether it’s wagering.
“There should be no player in the NRL who is under false pretence that betting on rugby league is on.
“If you do want to bet on rugby league, that’s entirely your choice.
“But guess what, you can’t be an NRL contracted player.
“You can’t have both, so make a decision.”
Simona has found at least one ally – sort of – in his quest to remain in the league, with his teammate and skipper Aaron Woods going into bat for the embattled centre.
Woods was obviously being very careful, given that a decision was yet to be made on the penalty to be handed down to his teammate.
But he did say that slapping players who gambled with life bans was too harsh and said they deserved a second chance, just like those were convicted of drug offences.
“A life ban is a long time,” Woods said.
“People who test (positive) for steroids, they get two or four years.
“If they do something wrong, you’ve got to have a chance to come back from it.
“But in saying that I don’t know the full details of Tim Simona.
“That’s all with the NRL, it’s hard to comment on.”
Greenberg has also addressed criticism that the league was having a little each way, given that it tells players not to gamble, but last year signed a $60 million deal with Sportsbet to be the NRL’s official betting partner.
“There is a really strong balance here,” he said during an interview with ABC News 24 aired on Sunday.
“I made some strong comments last year you’ll remember about anyone involved in match fixing or gambling inside the game against the rules will face life bans and I stand by that because that really cuts to the absolute core of the integrity of the sport.
“For you and I to turn up every week to watch that contest, we need to know that’s pure. Anyone who gets in the way of that will absolutely not be welcome back.
“But we do have to find a balance because people, particularly in this country, they love to have a bet.
“And we’re not going to get away from that.
“So whether or not we have branding or not, people are still going to be looking to have a wager on the game.
“What we need to do, though, (is) we need to talk and market ourselves to those people who want to do that.
“We’ve got to make sure that we’re very fundamental in how we have principles around those sorts of agreements.
“We’re trying very hard in this space.
“There are a lot of my friends, a lot of your friends, who really enjoy to have a punt on a weekend, whether it’s football, whether it’s cricket or the horses.
“A lot of people in Australia enjoy punting.
“It’s a difficult way to find this balance between enjoying the game but also making sure we’re responsible.”
Our Say on
Rock and a hard place?
Yes, the NRL benefits from the punters’ dollar, but if that was such a problem, they should ban gambling all together.
As Greenberg says, people are going to punt on games anyway, whether we like it or not. And, while it has been criticised, the NRL has appeared to have been doing something to educate its players about gambling on games.
If Simona is found guilty of betting on opposing players to score tries, of course, he must be sanctioned, but does he deserve a life ban?
We’re not sure.
Players get second chances for just about any other offence, whether that be drink driving, violence, jail, drug use. Why shouldn’t the same happen in instances of gambling?
A tough one.