Melbourne captain Cameron Smith fears for rugby league’s reputation.
Melbourne captain Cameron Smith fears for rugby league’s reputation.

Storm skipper backs harsher penalties

Melbourne captain Cameron Smith fears for rugby league’s reputation.
Melbourne captain Cameron Smith fears for rugby league’s reputation.

MELBOURNE stalwart Cameron Smith has come out strongly in support of calls for harsher penalties for NRL players whose off-field indiscretions tarnish the game's reputation.

The Rugby League Players Association president has echoed the sentiments of NRL chief Todd Greenberg, who has said he is disappointed and embarrassed by the flood of negative off-season headlines.

Jarryd Hayne, Jack de Belin, Dylan Walker, Zane Musgrove and Liam Coleman will appear before the courts this year in an ongoing publicity nightmare for the code.

As well, Australian skipper Greg Inglis pleaded guilty to drink-driving and Canterbury were fined $125,000 and four players were sanctioned over a Mad Monday saga in which players were photographed nude.

A fed-up Greenberg laid down the law to club captains in a phone hook-up on Monday.

Smith said it was time for players to take stock after a summer of turmoil for the game's image.

"It's a great opportunity for everyone in our playing group in the NRL to sit back and have a think about our behaviour and the choices that we make," Smith said on Friday.

"It really is time that we grow up as a game.

Jarryd Hayne leaves court after facing aggravated sexual assault charges.
Jarryd Hayne leaves court after facing aggravated sexual assault charges.

"These guys have got to understand that there is a responsibility that comes with being a professional athlete.

"It doesn't matter what code you play, you've got to make the right choices and if not there are consequences involved."

Smith fears the game's reputation is suffering irreparable damage in the aftermath of unsavoury incidents that keep occurring despite warnings by the league and clubs.

He was emphatic when asked if he supported a clampdown on player behaviour, with the introduction of harsher penalties up to and including deregistration.

"Depending on the indiscretion and severity of it ... I'm all for that," he said of the prospect of players being given their marching orders.

"Clearly the past penalties haven't had any deterrent (value) ... I'm all for harsher penalties."

The Storm will continue their preparations when they take on the New Zealand Warriors in a trial game in Geelong Stadium on February 22.