The Picton Magpies have been dealt a savage blow on their quest for a record fourth premiership in a row with the Country Rugby League banning two of their star players.
Jack Twist and Anthony Provost, both local juniors of the club, have each been handed 2 game suspensions for going ahead with a planned tour of Europe rather than play in the Country Bulls representative team in June.
Group 6 Executive Officer Steve Hazleton, who advised the club of the ban, stated that the suspension was issued via a directive from the CRL. According to Hazleton, the directive states that the ban only applies once the players have been selected again by their club and they were not to advise the club of the suspensions until that time.
The Picton club are yet to see anything in writing from the CRL because, according to Hazleton, the directive came via phone call from Bert Lowrie, Operations Manager of CRL.
Hazleton declared that he would’ve preferred to have received the directive via email, but “what was I going to do, tell the CRL that, no I won’t be doing that unless I have it in writing?”
The news is especially bad for Provost since the club has been told that the suspension applies only once the players are available and named in a first grade team sheet again. Provost, whose European holiday extended a further week, now requires his team to lose this weekends’ major semi-final against the Camden Rams in order to play in the grand final and potentially win a fourth consecutive premiership.
Should Picton lose to arch-rivals Camden this weekend and win in the following weeks final against the winner of Thirlmere and The Oaks, then Provost can play in the decider. Twist, whose first game being suspended was the final round of competition, will be free to play after this weekend, regardless.
The players are predictably distraught. “We were both honoured to be named in the CRL team and would’ve loved to have played” said Twist. “We even priced up what it would’ve cost to change the holiday around to play in the ‘Bulls’ side, but we couldn’t afford it”.
Twist went on “It (the CRL commitment) was a week in Perth and we were never told when that was until we got the letter saying we were selected. What were we supposed to do, cancel our trip to Europe that we booked and paid for almost a year earlier?
When asked for his thoughts, Picton Secretary Karl Klein, responded “first of all, I don’t know where they’re (CRL) getting this two weeks from. Their own manual states that it (the suspension) only lasts until rep duties are finished.”
Klein was referring to the CRL Governance and Management Manual, point 1.15.2, which states that if a player ‘withdraws without approval’ the player ‘shall be ineligible to play for his club in any team until such time as the commitments of the relevant representative team in which he was selected have been completed’ (Pictured below).
When advised of the above clause, Chairman of Group 6 Graham Andrews responded that a policy declaring the 2 game suspension does exist. “It’s a policy” Andrews said. “The players signed a document prior to playing for Group 6 and they signed another one prior to representing the region (Greater Southern). If you’re selected for Country and you withdraw and the reason’s not sound it’s a mandatory two competition match suspension.”
Interestingly, both Picton players deny having ever signed such a document and, as yet, no one from CRL has been able to produce a copy with their signatures.
When asked for a copy of the policy that states the mandatory two game suspension Andrews replied that Hazleton would be able to send that along with a copy of the meeting minutes showing when the decision was handed down.
I later received a phone call from Mr Hazleton to say that he couldn’t send me the minutes, but could only show me in person. Earlier today I caught up with Mr Hazleton who produced a printed photograph of a single undated page of what was evidently the minutes from the meeting showing the action item.
The policy declaring the mandatory two game suspension which applies once a player declares themselves able to play again is also yet to be seen.
The CRL were unavailable for comment today but a representative did make contact to say that they will be responding to the issues reported in this story tomorrow.
Twist (front left) and Provost (front right) with the Picton Magpies.
More to follow.