Former NRL player Sam Burgess has been hit with a $30,000 fine after a lengthy investigation conducted by the league found he had breached multiple rules during his time as a South Sydney player and official.
Burgess, who retired at the end of 2019 due to a chronic shoulder problem but continued his involvement with the Rabbitohs in a coaching capacity, also received a suspension from any official club duty for 12 weeks.
But the league said there was insufficient available evidence to support domestic violence allegations.
An NRL statement on Friday said the 33-year-old had “breached its code of conduct by taking illicit drugs in 2018, threatening another rugby league player in 2018 and breaching NSW law in February 2021 by driving a motor vehicle with traces of an illicit drug in his system”.
Burgess issued a statement saying he understood but did not agree with all of the breach notices issued by the NRL. In an Instagram post, he labelled his punishment “grossly unfair” but indicated he would not appeal out of a desire to “move on with my life”.
The sanctions come following the conclusion of NSW Police Strike Force Irrabella which was launched to investigate allegations of domestic violence and drug abuse made against Burgess by his ex-wife Phoebe.
Strike Force Irrabella concluded late last year that Burgess would not face charges over the allegations, and the NRL on Friday also said it did not have sufficient evidence to support the allegations of domestic violence.
“A number of allegations concerning Burgess’ personal relationships did not relate to the NRL’s rules,” the NRL noted.
In his statement on Friday evening, Burgess said he stood strongly against violence towards women.
“It has no place in society, no place in sport and no place in my life,” he said. “I am thankful the NRL have finally cleared my name against all allegations of domestic violence.
“I have now been cleared of three very public and defamatory investigations. This has been a long and damaging process, taking a toll on me both physically and mentally.”
Burgess stood himself down voluntarily in October 2020 and his suspension from club duties will can count that as time served, leaving him free to resume his role at the club should there be agreement between him and the club.
The Rabbitohs were fined $20,000 for failing to promptly advise the NRL Integrity Unit of the allegations made against Burgess. The club released a statement saying it responded to the breach notice at the time and now accepts the fine that has been imposed.
“The Rabbitohs wish to reiterate that there is no place in our society for violence, harassment or abuse against women,” the statement read.
“The club also takes issues of drug use very seriously and has established policies and procedures in place around the use of drugs. The club works closely with the playing group to support their wellbeing and educate them about drug use, and also works closely with Sport Integrity Australia and the NRL who administer testing of the players.”