Saturday 18 November 2017 / 10:49 PM

Holmes arrest clouds Pearce punishment

The NRL has another unsavoury off-field incident to deal with after young Cronulla star Valentine Holmes was reportedly arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning while attending the 2016 Emerging Maroons Origin camp in Brisbane.

Holmes allegedly got into an altercation with a taxi driver after skipping a taxi rank queue in Brisbane at approximately 4am on Sunday. The 20-year-old was subsequently arrested and slapped with $1400 worth in fines for public nuisance and obstructing police.

It is understood Holmes and Melbourne’s Cameron Munster broke curfew and will be excluded from the QRL’s representative programs for the next 12 months – meaning the duo will be ineligible for Origin selection this season.

Brisbane Broncos pair Anthony Milford and Jarrod Wallace, Sydney Roosters enforcer Dylan Napa and Newcastle forward Korbin Sims are also reportedly under investigation for breaking curfew.

The NRL Integrity Unit will investigate the incident further, which raises an interesting and potentially tricky situation for the game’s governing body in the wake of the Mitchell Pearce furore.

The embattled Roosters halfback has been pilloried by a string of pundits and some sections of the media after embarrassing, drunken footage emerged of Pearce on Australia Day.

There have been suggestions that Pearce, who did nothing illegal and was not acting aggressively in the video, will – or should be – rubbed out by the NRL for a year, or even permanently, despite a belated groundswell of level-headed calls for calm and perspective.  

At best, Pearce, who is currently overseas at a facility to help overcome alcohol issues, is looking at a ban from the first month of the 2016 premiership and a whopping fine.

If the reports from Holmes’ snafu are accurate, the tyro acted aggressively, violently and did break the law – yet he is unlikely to face anything more than expulsion from this weekend’s Nines tournament and possibly a one-match suspension.

While Pearce is a recognised repeat offender in regards to alcohol-related off-field incidents, albeit comparatively minor ones over a seven-year period, this is Holmes’ first transgression – but shouldn’t the seriousness of the offence override a player’s prior record to a significant extent?

The point being made here is not that Holmes should be facing a lengthy ban from the NRL, but that Pearce’s humiliating antics while unwittingly being recorded in a private residence have been blown out of all proportion – and any suspension for Pearce would be inequitable.

Because we have been able to view Pearce’s misbehaviour via the despicable person who taped him and sold the footage to media outlets, the outrage (from the less reasonable among us) has become an absurd tidal wave that has swept the NRL into a corner – with Pearce dragged out by the prejudiced undertow.

Meanwhile, Holmes’ indiscretion has been described only through a factual police report and – for a change – responsible reporting, therefore it is easier for the public-at-large to maintain a sensible outlook. The other variable is NSW Origin veteran Pearce’s relative high profile, although Holmes is one of the NRL’s emerging superstars.

For the NRL (and the namesake Unit) to uphold its integrity, it needs to perform a very delicate balancing act here and show some commonsense and transparency; short bans for both Pearce and Holmes would suffice, sending out a low-tolerance message without going overboard.

The kneejerk establishment’s track record suggests, however, that the probability of an even-handed result after the investigations into both incidents conclude is minimal, with public pressure from a skewed minority set to win the day yet again. 

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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