The video footage of David Fifita taking a swipe at a bouncer outside a Bali club was so poor there was no way the NRL integrity unit felt comfortable taking any action against the Broncos enforcer.
Despite spending two nights in a Bali prison and paying $40,000 for his freedom, Fifita received the ultimate Christmas miracle when the NRL said evidence relating to the November incident was ”inconclusive” and he was free to line up in round one.
The decision opens up the integrity unit to accusations of inconsistency after Storm forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona was banned for three Tests for his role in an altercation outside a Bali nightspot at the start of the off season.
Asofa-Solomona said he was defending Melbourne teammate Sulisasi Vunivalu, who had been attacked inside the venue, and no police action was taken.
The Herald understands the integrity unit were not comfortable coming down hard on Fifita when the video footage was so poor.
In Asofa-Solomona’s case, the footage of the Storm and Kiwis prop outside nightclub La Favela was brutal and undeniable. Fifita’s alleged assault of bouncer Dani Irawan unfolded outside the same club.
There were also questions about the judicial and policing procedures in Indonesia, which are very different to the ones in place in Australia.
Fifita signed a peace agreement, which is commonplace in the Balinese legal system and allows the alleged victim to drop charges against an arrested civilian behind bars. The Broncos flew one of their officials to Bali to help negotiate Fifita’s release and then safe return home.
Fifita told the integrity unit he never assaulted the bouncer in question, a claim again supported by the Broncos on Thursday.
We trust David’s version of events in that he did not commit an assault, but we understand the integrity unit had a job to do.
Broncos CEO Paul White
The NRL also said it was satisfied the actions of the Broncos were appropriate in the circumstances.
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said it was important the game made evidence-based decisions about player behaviour.
“It is important that our determinations are based on the evidence before us,” Greenberg said. “In this case, after analysing a multitude of evidence we can not say with certainty that a breach has occurred.”
Queensland Origin representative Fifita is in hot demand for his services in 2021. Canterbury and South Sydney are just two clubs keen to lure him away from Red Hill.
He was enjoying a belated holiday after featuring in the Prime Minister’s XIII, Australia’s World Cup 9s and then Junior Kangaroos clash against France. Injury forced him to miss joining the Kangaroos for the Test against Tonga.
Brisbane boss Paul White welcomed the news involving Fifita and said the club would not be handing down an internal penalty.
“We are satisfied with the NRL’s decision on this matter. David will pull on a Broncos jersey to play in round one and we feel that is a fair result for him and the club,” White said. “We trust David’s version of events in that he did not commit an assault, but we understand the integrity unit had a job to do. We have respected the process from the very start and cooperated every step of the way.”
Fifita’s escape capped an eventful week for the Broncos, whose players Jack Bird and Matt Lodge had to be separated after a heated exchange on the weekend.