Livid Andrew Johns calls for life bans over racism
Allegations of racial abuse have rocked the NRL during the New Zealand Warriors' game against the Penrith Panthers on the Central Coast last night.
While the Panthers won their ninth straight match - a club record - courtesy of an 18-12 victory, ugly accusations soured the occasion.
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After the Panthers opened up a 10-0 lead in the first half, reports emerged that eight male fans had been kicked out of the ground for allegedly racially abusing Panthers star Brent Naden.
Fox League's Steve Roach reported racial abuse had allegedly been directed at Penrith's Indigenous star, who complained about it to a club trainer.
"Boys, there's been a bit of racial abuse down here on the sideline," he said. "A couple of fans have been giving it to Brent Naden. They have been escorted out of the ground."
Naden is a proud Wiradjuri man from Wellington in Central West NSW and even helped create the side's 2020 Indigenous jersey.
"That's disgusting," NRL great Braith Anasta said. "Crazy, don't let them back in ever."
Naden told a Panthers trainer that he was racially vilified and the winger was reportedly "visibly rattled".
Fox Sports' Jess Yates said the behaviour was "absolutely unacceptable" and Penrith icon Greg Alexander called it "a disgrace".
"These clowns should never get into an NRL game again and their pictures should be up on every home ground to make sure they don't enter the ground because if this is true, that's the end of those blokes, they've seen their last live game," he said.
Speaking on Channel 9's coverage of the Dragons' win over Parramatta, Newcastle legend Andrew Johns called for life bans if the allegations were proven to be true.
"It's just not acceptable," Johns said. "We don't want these sorts of people in the NRL and if they're found guilty, they should be banned for life."
The Panthers had to hold out the gutsy Warriors in the second half to hang on for a six-point win but while they claimed their ninth-straight victory for the first time in the club's 53-year history, it was overshadowed.
Police may pursue the matter if Naden chooses to file an official complaint, while the NRL will also investigate after the Panthers and Central Coast Stadium filed reports.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary admitted the alleged slurs had affected Naden during the game.
"He took offence to it at the time, but he's OK now," Cleary said in the post-match press conference.
"I think it happened more than once. I don't really know the exact details and there'll need to be some sort of investigation. After that our main objective is making sure Brent is all right.
"He's OK, it definitely affected him, he said he was surprised that he was affected by it.
"I don't know what that means, or whether it was something more than he's had before."
Acting NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said the allegations were extremely serious.
"Racism and vilification will not be tolerated in our game," he said. "Bringing communities and cultures together is part of rugby league. We pride ourselves on being inclusive and taking a leadership role in driving social change.
"Any fan found to have racially abused a player or another fan will not be welcome at our games.
"We have shown in the past that we will take the strongest possible action to ensure fans guilty of racial abuse are banned from attending the Telstra Premiership.
"We will work closely with NSW Police, stadium authorities and the clubs to determine the facts and take decisive action against anyone guilty of racial abuse.
"Later tonight, I will call any player involved to ensure they are receiving the support they need. We will always stand by our players."
New Zealand Warriors CEO Cameron George was quick to release a statement condemning the behaviour.
"We do not condone any sort of racial remarks towards anyone playing rugby league or in general and we completely support a tough stance against this behaviour," the statement said. "The Warriors embrace all cultures and race and proudly promote inclusiveness of all cultures and race in our great game."
Originally published as Livid Andrew Johns calls for life bans