Todd Carney during the Sharks' victory against the Brisbane Broncos in Brisbane on Friday night. Photo: Getty Images
Rugby league immortal Andrew Johns has leapt to the defence of Cronulla's Todd Carney after a disturbing photo allegedly of the troubled NRL star was posted online on Saturday night.
‘‘Surely they couldn’t sack him for that,’’ Johns said on Channel Nine’s Sunday Footy Show. ‘‘It’s silly ... it’s stupid (but) he is only doing it to himself.’’
The image, which is too graphic to publish and has yet to be authenticated, appears to show the Cronulla Sharks player engaged in a lewd act while standing at a urinal.
The photo is believed to have been taken in Sydney on Saturday night, not in Brisbane on Friday during the Sharks’ celebrations after their dramatic upset win over the Broncos, in which Carney starred.
Cronulla are expected to release a statement on Sunday afternoon, as are the NRL.
Sharks chief executive Steve Noyce told Fairfax Media he had been in touch with the NRL about the image.
"I am aware of the photo," Mr Noyce said. "I've spoken to the NRL and we'll investigate the matter."
NRL officials and the Sharks are trying to determine the authenticity of the photo and how it was shared on social media. The competition's head of football, Todd Greenberg, didn't have a time frame on when a decision on Carney's future will be made, but admitted the NRL would continue discussions with Cronulla over the next 24 hours.
"I'd expect that we can have some discussions again with the Sharks tonight and tomorrow," Greenberg told Triple M. "These things take as long as they take. It's always difficult to put time frames on them but we're clearly not in the business to talk about negativity for rugby league, we want to talk about the positive things. These things derail the conversation and that doesn't please us."
While a potential punishment wasn't put forward, Greenberg said the NRL wouldn't shy away from taking a tough stance against the troubled Sharks five-eighth. "I think we just have to make sure we do this properly," Greenberg said. "If there's one thing that we've seen under Dave Smith's leadership over the last 12 months is that we'll do things consistently, and we'll do it appropriately through the progress of the Integrity Unit and we'll deal with it. We're certainly not shy of making hard decisions when they need to be made but we have to do it with the fullness of the information that becomes available to us."
Pressed on how the NRL would deal with Carney, Greenberg reiterated the process that the NRL had to go through before coming up with a suitable punishment. "We'll be judged on how we deal with the issues but we have to deal with them appropriately and we have to deal with them properly," Greenberg said. "There's not much use anyone jumping to conclusions today. I haven't actually seen the photo. I've heard a lot about it this morning but clearly there's a bit of work to be done before we start making decisions. Where we have to make tough decisions we'll make them and we've clearly done that over the past 12 months."
The image was published on Twitter and has since been retweeted and shared with comments.
Carney's agent, David Riolo, told Fairfax Media he was unable to comment while the matter was under investigation.
It is the latest incident to hurt Carney’s career, which has been marred by alcohol-related issues.
Carney joined the Sharks in 2012 after being dismissed two years into a three-year contract with the Roosters after he broke a club-issued alcohol ban in 2011.
He had previously spent a year playing for a regional Queensland team after a string of alcohol-related incidents during his time playing for the Canberra Raiders.
The Raiders sacked Carney in 2008 after he was suspended by the club for allegedly urinating on somebody’s head at a Canberra nightclub.
The 2010 Dally M medal winner also played for NSW in the State of Origin for the first time in 2012.