South Sydney co-owner Russell Crowe defends Cody Walker, Wayne Bennett

Russell Crowe says Rabbitohs five-eighth Cody Walker’s two-match suspension is “not sustainable” and has backed Wayne Bennett’s decision to keep the incident quiet as genius man-management.

South Sydney owner Russell Crowe says he has seen more violence in supermarket toilet-paper scuffles than Cody Walker’s karate kick in a street fight that landed him a two-week ban from the NRL.

The Hollywood superstar is urging chief executive Blake Solly to look at all avenues of appeal for Walker’s suspension and has backed coach Wayne Bennett’s decision not to report the incident to the club management or the NRL integrity unit.

“It is our opinion that giving Cody Walker a two-match ban is not a sustainable decision based on precedent, and that needs to be re-examined,” Crowe said in an email response to questions The News  in regards to Souths’ handling of the matter.

“Cody came forward, he brought the subject to light with his coach at the time. Apart from the initial minor piece of stupidity he has done what players are asked to do.”

Walker has apologised for his role in the fight in Casino last December and said he would accept any penalty.

“The video needs to be understood within the context of grief and the wake of a young relative’s suicide, and the cultural context of a small town rocked by that death,” Crowe said.

“I think we’ve all seen more violence recently over toilet rolls in supermarkets.

“For someone to bring the game into disrepute is a very big statement. I think it is being used in too broad a form and its application player to player, club to club is currently inconsistent.”

Bennett was the only person at Redfern who knew about the incident before it came to light because of a blackmail attempt.

The club has been fined $20,000 for hiding the incident from the NRL integrity unit.

He declared Bennett’s actions showed why he is “the pre-eminent man manager in the game” and so highly regarded by the players.

The Rabbitohs have had their share of off-season trouble. Photo: Tim Pascoe
The Rabbitohs have had their share of off-season trouble.

“As a club we require Wayne Bennett to take responsibility for his men and we believe he has shown that leadership here,” Crowe said.

“Let me say I think the NRL integrity unit have done a fine job so far, I’m glad they are there and I appreciate more and more the nuance that they bring to their process of discovery.

“In all due respects the club is united behind Wayne Bennett’s handling of this situation. That Cody Walker sought Wayne out is an indication of the level of respect he has amongst the players.

“That Wayne came to a conclusion made on his trust in Cody to be truthful, accept that truth, and show his respect to the player in return, shows you why the players hold Mr Bennett in such high regard, and why he is the pre-eminent man-manager in the game.”

Crowe said Bennett always puts the wellbeing of his players before anything else.

And it is one of the reasons why he has been so successful and so tight with his footy teams over four decades.

Bennett has protected his players, which has irked some observers. Photo: Adam Yip
Bennett has protected his players, which has irked some observers.

“Within man management is the very salient issue of mental health,” Crowe said. “I expect Wayne’s decision was to put Cody’s wellbeing as his priority and I respect that decision.

“Furthermore, I would expect and require all of our coaching personnel to have player wellbeing as their priority.”

The Rabbitohs will now consider appealing the fine.

“We will examine the fine, we don’t agree with it.” Crowe said. “That’s not said with malice or accusation, we just don’t agree with it.

“I’m reassured by recent statements by Mr V’Landy’s that he is seeking to reshape how the NRL regards the clubs and starting to take advantage of the sharp minds around him. Joe Kelly, Blake Solly and others. Andrew Abdo seems to be proving his worth in the CEO capacity and that’s good for all of us.”

NRL: Russell Crowe is standing by his men. Buzz Rothfield tells NRL 360 that Rusty is ready to appeal the ban on Cody Walker.

Crowe then addressed the extortion attempt before the video was released.

“What this situation underlines, with threats of blackmail and payments demanded, is that there is a perception out there in society that the media is easily manipulated,” he said.

And then finally to another little issue …

“In reality, the entire organisation only has one focus this week,” he said. “Eastern suburbs. Dual premiership winners, world club champions, the benchmark of the game. Looking forward to it.”

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