Act like slime, do the time, cop the fine. That's the implicit message from the NRL after Sydney Roosters player Mitchell Pearce was outed for eight NRL games and fined $125,000 ($50,000 of which is suspended) for his drunken escapade on Australia Day.
Pearce recently returned from a month-long stint in a rehab centre in Thailand and has sworn off the grog. But after a protracted series of negotiations, the Roosters reached an agreement with the NRL integrity unit on Thursday morning.
The NRL is understood to have wanted a ban of 10 to 12 weeks while the Roosters were reportedly asking for a three to four week ban with a fine of $200,000. The eight week/$125,000 penalty is understood to be the strictest punishment for off-field behavioural discretions in the history of the league.
The NRL has no CEO at the moment after the departure of David Smith after the the 2015 season. He has not yet been replaced. But the League acted like anything but the proverbial headless chicken in dishing out such a severe penalty.
At the season launch last week, ARL Commission chairman john Grant said "we're changing". It was a deliberately ambiguous statement, yet one which clearly flagged the fact that the code knows it must improve its public image to ward off the threat of sports like AFL.
The first step in that mission was coming down hard on Mitchell Pearce, who was seen simulating sex with a dog, allegedly peeing on a couch, and behaving in a generally inappropriate way around a woman after a drunken harbour cruise.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson was scathing of that suggestion on Wednesday.
"Being thrown out of the game for an incident like that is over the top, it would be unprecedented in our game," Robinson said.
"He hasn't been sacked by a club before and I think the people who have made those comments have tempered their views."
Pearce is free to return to Roosters training on Monday. The NRL kicks off Thursday night. The Roosters play the Rabbitohs in a Sunday afternoon blockbuster.