‘Careful what you wish for’: Police boss Mick Fuller’s warning to NRL players
NSW Police commissioner Mick Fuller has vowed to crack down on player misbehaviour if he is appointed to the ARL Commission, declaring heavy sanctions should not depend on criminal convictions.
“People should be careful what they wish for,” Fuller told the Herald.
Police Commissioner Mick Fuller is about to come onto the ARL Commission.Credit:Louise Kennerley
In a stunning coup for rugby league, Fuller, 52, is expected to fill the one vacant position remaining on the commission ahead of next Friday’s annual general meeting.
He has already been given the approval of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, and Fuller said he expected a decision to be made in “the next 48 hours”.
In reality, his appointment is considered a fait accompli.
In an interview with the Herald on Thursday, Fuller said he could help stem the tide of off-field misbehaviour that has cost the game millions in sponsorship dollars in recent years.
“I’m an expert in employment, people management, brand management and setting behavioural expectations,” Fuller said. “I’ve brought those skills to the NSW Police Force and I think I can bring that to the NRL.
“There seems to be a belief in the NRL that players shouldn’t be sanctioned if there is no criminal conviction. I don’t believe that’s the case. They are doing incredible damage to the reputation of the game. Under employment law, you can be sanctioned. It doesn’t come down to a matter of reasonable doubt. If you’re a plumber, a journalist, whoever, you would be sanctioned for hurting the reputation of your business. In rugby league, you have other stakeholders like the fans and sponsors.”
There has been much speculation about who will take the remaining position on the commission after the departure of Mark Coyne and Amanda Laing last year.
There was talk last week that Coyne could make a controversial return, although chairman Peter V’landys denied it when contacted on Monday.
“I don’t profess to be a great oracle about the game,” Fuller said. “I’m a long-time supporter of the game, a lifelong follower of the Dragons, but I think I can offer help in other areas.”
Asked if there could be a perceived conflict of interest being Police Commissioner and on the commission, Fuller said: “That’s a decision for others to make. I don’t think there will be. I have said to Peter I will only do the job for nothing. Anything I get paid [a directors’ fee of $75,000] will be given to Police Legacy.”
Indeed, Fuller could finally make some definitive decisions on player misbehaviour — an issue the NRL has struggled to address in recent years.
Head office has flagged lifting fines to $100,000, although there is scepticism about it being a deterrent.
Several NRL clubs also remain angry about Broncos prop Payne Haas merely receiving a three-match ban and $50,000 fine for abusing a female police officer on a drunken night out last month.
Fuller was dismayed when former NRL adviser Catharine Lumby said Haas deserved no penalty based on race.
“I think she has had a shocker — that’s a shocker of a comment to make,” Fuller told 2GB at the time. “You’d have to be living under a rock not to know that policing in NSW is very different to anywhere else in the world.”
Fuller has plenty of friends in high places. He is close to the Roosters chairman Nick Politis, Canberra coach Ricky Stuart and Nine expert commentator Phil Gould, who Fuller consulted about taking on the role.
Fuller was fundamental in the relaunch of the NRL season last year in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as facilitating the Warriors to set up in Tamworth for their quarantine period.
“Commissioner Fuller would be a wonderful acquisition for the commission and the rugby league community in general,” Gould said. “Few people know how much Commissioner Fuller did for the NRL last year to get the competition back up and running, virtually saving the NRL from financial disaster. His leadership and life skills, his contacts and experience, will be a great asset to our game. I sincerely hope this happens.”
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