RL: PLAYING IN SUPER LEAGUE ON ARL CONTRACT POSSIBLE: QC
LEAGUE SUPER PENRITH NIGHTLEAD
By Bruce Walkley of AAP
SYDNEY, Feb 1 AAP - Australian captain Brad Fittler and
team-mate Matt Sing could conceivably play for Super League Penrith
while remaining under their New South Wales Rugby League contracts,
counsel for the club told the Supreme Court today.
Bernard Coles QC submitted to Justice Kim Santow that commercial
realities would make it possible for the club's contractual
arrangements with Super League to be flexible enough for the two
players to be offered places in the team.
However Bernard Gross QC, for the players, argued that such an
arrangement would not work.
The two barristers were making final submissions in a case in
which Penrith has sued Fittler and Sing, claiming they are under
contract to it for 1996, and seeking orders preventing them playing
for another club this year.
Fittler and Sing, who have signed to play with the Sydney City
Roosters team operated by the Eastern Suburbs club, claim the final
year of their three-year contracts with Penrith, signed in 1994, is
void because Penrith is not playing in the NSWRL/ARL competition.
Coles argued it had not been established that Penrith's
contractual arrangements with Super League would "operate so
inflexibly as to preclude Penrith offering them positions in the
He added that the Super League-Penrith arrangements "should not
be regarded as so inflexible as to prevent them being accommodated
within the context of their present contracts".
Rather, he suggested, commercial reality suggested that
"flexibility would prevail over rigidity".
However Gross, describing the idea of the players appearing in
the Super League competition while still under their NSWRL
contracts as "unworkable", gave disciplinary procedures as one
Describing a situation where one of the players might be sent
off for foul or dangerous play, Gross said: "If he injures another
player he has not subjected himself to any disciplinary procedures
except what's in this (the NSWRL/ARL) contract, so he can't be
suspended or fined."
He said the leagues had rules which allowed them to discipline
both clubs and players acting against the interests of the game,
but the only function of ARL disciplinary bodies was to act on
matters which arose out of the competition the leagues controlled.
The disciplinary powers came out of the player's undertaking, in
his registration form, to be subjected to discipline if he breached
the rules of either the league or his club.
Gross said there was no requirement for the league to have
jurisdiction over competitions which had nothing to do with it, and
in this case was to be run in opposition to it.
But Coles submitted in reply that one of the ARL's objects in
its meoranda and articles of association was to adjudicate on any
dispute relating to rugby league football, so it could conceivably
hear a case involving disciplining ARL-contracted players appearing
in Super League matches.
Coles also said an argument put forward by Gross yesterday, that
the players' seasonal commitment to the club would cease to exist
under Super League, which required its players to be full-time
footballers, was unfounded.
"Unless they signed a Super League contract they would only have
to perform their obligations under the existing contracts," he
Coles said the fact the two players could suffer hardship
because they would be earning less money if they returned to
Penrith should not be considered, nor should the loyalty agreements
they signed with the ARL in April this year, which according to the
evidence they had signed without the Penrith club's knowledge.
(The court has heard evidence that Fittler's Penrith contract
this year is worth $150,000, while he would get more than $500,000
to play for Easts, and Sing's Roosters contract is worth $275,000
compared with $70,000 at Penrith).
Justice Santow reserved his decision, saying he would hand it
down as quickly as possible.
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