Cronulla forwards Andrew and David Fifita have been stood down by the NRL club pending the conclusion of an investigation of alleged abuse of rugby league match officials.
The Sharks released a statement on Monday afternoon saying the brothers intended to “defend the more serious charges levelled against them”.
Earlier on Monday the pair were banned from Penrith junior rugby league matches for 12 months over the incident.
Wests Tigers prop Matthew Lodge has also been banned, for the remainder of the year, by the Penrith Junior Rugby League over the same incident at Glenwood on Saturday.
The Fifita brothers could face a significant ban from the NRL over the incident. Lodge could also be hit with further sanctions.
Former Kangaroo Andrew Fifita is alleged to have said “I’ll smash you” to a referee during the incident.
“The club has today received, and is reviewing and assessing, statements from a variety of people present at the match including match officials, participating club representatives, ground officials and independent witnesses,” the Sharks statement read.
“In assessing these reports it is evident that conflicting versions of events exist.”
Both Andrew and David Fifita were said to be upset that referee Tim Hannon didn’t stop a match for an injured player.
“The club reasserts that it takes the nature of the allegations against its players very seriously and is working with NRL CEO Dave Smith and the NRL Integrity Unit to ensure that due process is allowed to occur and the appropriate sanctions are put in place once all of the facts are established,” the Sharks said.
Initial reports suggested Hannon had secured video footage of the alleged incident on his mobile phone, however that is not the case.
The Fifita twins and Lodge have five days to decide if they will appeal the ban by the Penrith Junior Rugby League.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that David Fifita was banned for 12 months over a similar incident in 2011, while according to News Corp the brothers were involved in another incident in 2013.
According to a copy of Hannon’s report of the incident, David Fifita said to the referee: “You’re a f***ing disgrace mate. I lost respect for you when you didn’t stop time when one of our players were down. You’re a f***ing disgrace”.
David Fifita then allegedly continued to abuse Hannon for 20 seconds before his brother joined in.
“(Andrew) charged towards me and attempted to snatch my mobile phone which I was holding in my right hand,” the report continued to read.
“Numerous people intervened and held Andrew Fifita back preventing him from grabbing my mobile phone. At the time these actions by Andrew Fifita made me feel very threatened and uncomfortable.”
Lodge, who played in the Tigers’ NYC loss to Sydney Roosters on Friday night, is no stranger to drama either.
He was suspended last season after writing the word c*** on his wrist strapping while playing for NSW’s Under-20s side.