NZ Warriors trio Kane Evans, Matt Lodge and Reece Walsh will all miss the start of the NRL 2022 season, after copping suspensions for their sins during the 44-0 defeat to Gold Coast Titans on Sunday.
In a spiteful climax to the worst performance of their campaign, Evans, Lodge and Jazz Tevaga were all sent to the sin bin for fighting, reducing their team to 10 players over the closing minutes, as their opponents ran up 18 points against the undermanned defensive line.
Walsh was later cited for sparking the initial melee.
Among them, Evans, Lodge and Walsh will miss a total of seven games - Evans five, and one apiece for his partners in crime - while Tevaga has escaped with a AU$1900 fine.
Evans' punishment stems from two incidents - a dangerous tackle to the head of counterpart Beau Fermor and involvement in a later scuffle, for which he was expelled. He entered an early plea to both charges.
Lodge entered an early plea for the head-high tackle on Tyrone Peachey that sparked the second melee, while Walsh also entered an early plea.
Tevaga escaped a ban because he had no carryover points against his record.
The result means the Warriors are already on the back foot, as they try to make the NRL playoffs for the first time since 2018.
Warriors chief executive Cam George has publicly apologised for his team's conduct against the Titans.
"We, as a footy team, footy club have always and continue to conduct ourselves in the best possible light, in the best interest of the game, our club, our brand, our partners and our fans," he says.
"We've worked really hard on that and to have X amount of moments where we've let ourselves down in that regard, there's no excuse for it.
"I apologise to everyone in regards to our club for that and I want to make it very clear that we will be addressing that internally this week."
But former Warriors coach Brian McClennan has told SENZ that Evans' contract should be torn up, after he was sin-binned twice for fighting against Cronulla Sharks last month.
"For me, they've got to get rid of him," McClennan says. "Just not good enough.
"Twice in a row now he's thrown punches and hasn't even caused a bruise. For me, he's got to go.
"Given that he copped his warning and has done it again, that's not a selfless action of a player who's thinking of his team. For me, they've got to move him on."
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