Paul Gallen stood up for league players.
Paul Gallen stood up for league players.

Channel 9 stars in fiery live TV spat

Cronulla captain Paul Gallen has defended NRL players in a fiery TV debate as the off-season of shame continues to dominate discussion just days out from the start of the new season.

Appearing on Channel 9's Sports Sunday program, Gallen clashed with former Wallaby turned journalist Peter FitzSimons over the handling of footy players who are facing allegations of illegal conduct.

FitzSimons supports the league's position to adopt a "no fault" stand down policy whereby any player facing charges that carry an 11-year jail sentence will be automatically stood down on full pay for the duration of their case.

Dragons star Jack de Belin, who has pleaded not guilty to a charge of aggravated sexual assault, will be affected by the new policy although he has taken the NRL to Federal Court over the decision to stop him from playing. He strongly denies the charges against him.

The policy is yet to be ratified but the NRL has said it's confident it will become official this week, thereby preventing de Belin from taking the field.

However, Gallen says the policy could be unfair on some players who may end up being found innocent.

"I think there is a place in the game for this no fault policy. However, I don't think it's relevant in the Jack de Belin case at the moment," Gallen said.

Gallen and FitzSimons disagreed over the merits of standing de Belin down before his court case but then things became more heated when the Sharks legend hit back after a question about NRL players' general treatment of women.

Jack de Belin is maintaining his innocence.
Jack de Belin is maintaining his innocence.

"Why do NRL players have such an appalling record, leaving the current cases out of it, looking back over the past 10 years, with women?" FitzSimons asked, prompting a passionate response in which Gallen his fellow panellist of being biased and tarring all league players with the same brush.

Gallen: Fitzy, I take offence to that. Let's not let your agenda against rugby league be brought into this now.

FitzSimons: Oh please, I like rugby league.

Gallen: You don't.

FitzSimons: Can you deny that?

Gallen: I think you're using women in a bad way here. Unfortunately, there's one woman killed every week in domestic violence. That's not NRL players, that's society. The problem in society against women is an issue and something I ... sit strongly against. I can't stand violence against women. If you are an NRL player who has been done and you are guilty of an offence against a woman, (you should be) outed for life. I'm totally there for that. But don't try to bring NRL players in that we're the ones doing all this to women. We're not.

FitzSimons: You can't deny the record.

Before the two could trade any further blows Sports Sunday host James Bracey wrapped up the segment.

CHECK OUT THE VERBAL STOUSH IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE

Gallen doesn’t want the reputation of every rugby league player tarnished.
Gallen doesn’t want the reputation of every rugby league player tarnished.

Before their head-to-head, Gallen said although he doesn't believe the NRL should force de Belin to sit out, the NSW Origin forward may stay on the sidelines because of how tough it will be to perform at his best given all his distractions.

Gallen also said rugby league fans can be ruthless in some of the things they say about players so it would be an almost impossible task for de Belin to concentrate on his job if he were put in front of other clubs' supporters on the field.

FitzSimons applauded the NRL for its bold new "no fault" policy, saying in other walks of life anyone else in a different profession would be stood down - most likely without pay - if they were facing serious charges.

He said for too long player behaviour in the NRL has been rotten and praised the governing body for finally taking a stand while at the same time making it clear it wasn't making any judgment on a player's guilt or innocence.

"They have had the summer from hell. They cannot go on, particularly with the record against women, there is no way around it," FitzSimons said.

"It cannot go on.

"The NRL had to do something. They had to make a stand. It's actually a little bit brilliant calling it the 'no fault policy'.

"They are not making commentary on the guilt or innocence, they are just saying, 'We cannot sustain you in the workplace when you have that level of charge against you'."