Johnathan Thurston lashes NRL judiciary over length of Spencer Leniu's suspension

The Indigenous NRL icon is not happy about the punishment for Leniu's racial slur.

Johnathan Thurston has ripped the NRL judiciary's decision to hand Spencer Leniu an eight-game suspension, saying it's not enough. Leniu admitted on Monday night at the judiciary that he told Ezra Mam to "f*** up you monkey" during the Roosters' clash with the Broncos in Las Vegas.

Leniu claimed that he didn't realise the term 'monkey' had racial connotations and thought he was "one brown man saying something to another brown man". But the judiciary panel of Sean Hampstead, Bob Lindner and Geoff Bellew rejected that claim, ruling that because Leniu said it in anger he knew what it meant.

Leniu's lawyer had called for a four-match ban, but the panel settled on eight games. Bellew said the panel "did not accept the player's claimed ignorance".

Johnathan Thurston and Spencer Leniu.
Johnathan Thurston isn't happy with the length of Spencer Leniu's ban. Image: Getty/AAP

Johnathan Thurston not happy with Spener Leniu punishment

The length of the ban has left the NRL world divided, and Thurston has claimed it isn't long enough. Discussing the outcome on Channel 9 on Tuesday morning, the Indigenous icon said the "game has failed" by not coming down harder.

"I was looking at probably 12 weeks... for racial vilification on the field," Thurston said on Today. "I understand he has owned up to what he said, but the NRL - we have the Indigenous All Stars match, we have Indigenous Round, NRL Indigenous strategy team. So we're saying and doing all the right things, but I definitely don't think the punishment has fit the crime.

"I'm quite emotional talking about it, it's certainly opened up a lot of scars for our people. I spoke to Ezra after the match to check on his wellbeing, he was pretty shattered about it all.

"I thought it was a great opportunity to make a statement and I don't think the eight weeks is sufficient. The NRL had a great opportunity to make a stand - not only for the game but for society as well. I think the game has failed in this instance. "

Johnathan Thurston, pictured here before the Indigenous All-Stars game.
Johnathan Thurston looks on before the Indigenous All-Stars game in Townsville in February. (Getty Images)

Why Johnathan Thurston has been so affected by Spencer Leniu slur

The Cowboys and Maroons legend added: "Having a deep understanding of what my family has been through, this history of our nation, what our culture has been through. Those types of remarks do bring up mental scars for our people.

"It's been quite difficult over the last couple of weeks. You've got to check on Spencer as well, I understand he's copped a fair bit of abuse for it. This is an education piece, we need to make sure both parties are being supported. "

Spencer Leniu admission a cause for concern for NRL?

The Sydney Roosters have accepted Leniu's ban and will put their entire club through cultural training in response to the scandal. Roosters CEO Joe Kelly commended the way Mam and the Broncos had handled the incident, but remained adamant Leniu was not racist.

He said more education would be provided to the Roosters on the issue. "We'll increase his education about the Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people," Kelly said. "We'll also be supporting all of our other Indigenous players in the club. And across the board all staff and players will undergo further education of these cultures as well as the Pacific culture."


Leniu mentioned in his argument that casual slurs are regularly used between players of colour in NRL squads, potentially shining a light on a broader issue across the game. "A lot of people in my circle and in the same skin tone to me, our slang and how we speak to each other has all those words," Leniu said.

"Black c***, and all those types of words are used. They are so common in our language that we speak to each other every single day. (We say) Blacky, we always have a competition of who is the darkest in the team, Monkey and all that kind of stuff."

with AAP

Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.

Yahoo Australia