Penrith have stood down Grand Final utility Tyrone May in the wake of a controversial Instagram post soon after the season decider.
It comes after the NRL issued May with a Breach Notice, proposing a $7,500 fine and further education programs.
“Penrith Panthers Player Tyrone May has been issued with a Breach Notice alleging he acted contrary to the best interests of the game for posting and being part of social media posts which do not align with the values of the game,” the NRL said in a statement.
The Panthers responded immediately, standing May down and hinting his future at the club was in doubt.
“Panthers has subsequently notified May he is stood down from all club-related duties and appearances until further notice,” the club said in a statement.
“The matter will be considered further at the upcoming meeting of the Panthers Board of Directors.”
May narrowly avoided jail after pleading guilty to four counts of intentionally recording an intimate image without consent.
The sex tape scandal erupted prior to the 2019 season but May has remained part of the Panthers squad and played in the past two Grand Finals.
The Weekender understands that while May has support within parts of the club, there is growing awareness that the fan base and some sponsors are uncomfortable with his ongoing behaviour.
His recent Instagram post, which he deleted, featured a photo of May and Panthers coach Ivan Cleary leaving Parramatta Local Court with lyrics from rapper Drake: “And the dirt that they threw on my name turned to soil and I grew up out it. Time for y’all to figure out what y’all gon’ do about it. Love my brothers”.
Meanwhile, Penrith co-captain Nathan Cleary and centre Stephen Crichton have been issued with Breach Notices alleging that they “acted contrary to the best interests of the game after they were photographed on social media acting in a disrespectful manner toward the NRL Telstra Premiership Trophy”.
It is an extraordinary move by the NRL which now must set a precedent in relation to how clubs handle the trophy.
Last year, Melbourne Storm players were shown pouring beer into the trophy and cradling it like a baby but the NRL did not issue fines.
On the Penrith matter, the NRL said: “The Notice alleges the Premiership Trophy was damaged at a Club Awards night and although not personally responsible for the damage, the players subsequently treated the Trophy in a manner which showed disrespect towards the individuals depicted in the iconic moment memorialised on the Trophy.”
The Breach Notices propose that Cleary and Crichton are fined $7,000 and $4000 respectively. The fines take into account their varying salaries.
The players have five business days to respond to the Breach Notice.
Panthers Group CEO Brian Fletcher said there was no intention to disrespect the trophy.
“The Panthers players had no intention to show disrespect towards the trophy, Norm Provan or Arthur Summons, however they understand that’s how their actions may have been interpreted,” he said.
“Everyone at Panthers is well aware of the immense contributions Norm and Arthur made to our game and the high esteem in which they are held by everyone involved in Rugby League.
“On behalf of the club I sincerely apologise for any offence or distress this matter may have caused the Rugby League community and particularly the Provan and Summons families.”
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.