On the phone: TV footage showed Chris Lawrence (bottom left) on his phone on Friday night. Photo: Channel NineThe NRL Integrity Unit’s end-of-season review will consider tightening the rules around a player’s access to mobile phones on game day after a second player was shown to be using a device in the dressing room while a match was in progress.
Channel Nine aired vision of Wests Tigers back-rower Chris Lawrence on his mobile phone shortly after he limped from the field with a knee injury in the joint venture’s crushing loss to Penrith on Friday night.
Lawrence was understood to be merely responding to a text message from his wife Kathryn, who wasn’t at the game, and was concerned the 192-game veteran would need a lift home from Pepper Stadium, Penrith.
The result was well beyond doubt with just 11 minutes left when the vision was shown.
But the NRL on Sunday pledged to look at restricting the use of phones in the inner sanctum, particularly given NSW Police are continuing to probe three matches – two from last year and one from this season – over match fixing allegations.
It is believed to be one of the items high on the agenda for the Integrity Unit at the end of the season.
The issue first surfaced when Parramatta five-eighth Corey Norman was shown using his mobile phone in the dressing room in the season-opening loss to Brisbane which was beamed across the country.
Norman suffered a neck injury and was also informing concerned family members of his health while the game was still in progress.
Norman – who has been forced to sit out the last eight weeks of the season over a number of off-field misdemeanours including drug possession – wasn’t sanctioned at the time and there are no NRL rules prohibiting players from using a phone during the a match.
But the spectre of the match fixing allegations and NRL’s push to strengthen its integrity means the issue of players thumbing away on mobile phones while their teammates are on the field remains a hot topic.
Former Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy has urged the NRL Integrity Unit to consider legislating for players to hand over their phones upon arrival at a ground on game day and not get them back until the game is over.
It was one of eight recommendations Murrihy made in wide-ranging review of the governance practices at Manly.
The Sea Eagles have agreed to adopt Murrihy’s report and will float the idea with the NRL of phones being taken out of a player’s possession on game day.
The powers mirror those of horse racing’s police who consider a jockey having a mobile phone in their possession in the riders’ room on race day to be one of the most serious offences in the sport.
Safety officers are on standby to notify a rider’s next of kin immediately should a jockey become injured while riding, given jockeys don’t have access to their mobile phones.
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