America goes nuts over NRL as Spencer Leniu allegation overshadows Las Vegas success

The Sydney Roosters recruit has now been charged by the NRL after Ezra Mam's allegation.

The NRL's opening weekend in Las Vegas has proven to be an overwhelming success, however a shocking allegation and subsequent NRL charge against Sydney Roosters prop Spencer Leniu threatens to overshadow it all. The Sea Eagles beat the Rabbitohs 36-24 before the Roosters stunned the Broncos 20-10 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, with over 40,000 in attendance and many more watching around the world.

The overwhelming reaction from Americans in the crowd and on social media was positive, with the Yanks raving over the physicality and toughness on display. But the showcase was marred by an allegation of racial abuse levelled against Leniu by Broncos five-eighth Ezra Mam.

Ezra Mam, pictured here during the NRL's opening weekend in Las Vegas.
The NRL proved a huge hit in America, but Ezra Mam's (right middle) allegations have taken some of the shine off. Image: Getty/Fox Sports

Midway through the second half on Sunday, Indigenous star Mam could be heard telling referee Adam Gee: "He called me a monkey". Other Broncos players were also heard saying: "He called him a monkey".

Mam was said to be in tears after the game and has told Broncos officials he is adamant he was racially abused. Leniu told Triple M after the game that he wasn't worried at all about the allegation, describing it as "fun and games on the field".

NRL takes action after allegation against Spencer Leniu

The NRL has since confirmed that Leniu has been charged and referred directly to the judiciary. South Sydney fullback Latrell Mitchell had earlier demanded the NRL take action, posting to social media: "I stand with you Bala. (The NRL) better deal with this s**t".

Gee said he didn't hear the alleged slur, but when he asked Mam if he wanted to make a formal complaint the Broncos star responded: "Yes I do". When placed on report by Gee, Leniu could be heard saying to the referee: "Why would I say that?".

Broncos coach Kevin Walters said in his post-match press conference: "He's pretty upset in there. He's adamant (there was a slur), but we'll leave it with the NRL. They're looking at it. We certainly support Ezra and our player and everything that's around that."

Broncos captain Adam Reynolds admitted he didn't hear the alleged slur personally, but said the team was supporting Mam. "In this day and age, you wouldn't think this is still out there," Reynolds said.

"I was well away from it. But we support our player. He is pretty upset in there. We certainly don't stand for racism and we'll support Ezra and get around him, make sure he's alright."


Roosters coach Trent Robinson said he hadn't spoken to Leniu and hadn't heard what the alleged complaint was about. "He obviously made the complaint, but that doesn't mean that it's right," Robinson said. "It'll go through the formal process as it should."

Jacob Gagai, pictured here diving over to score during the Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles clash.
Jacob Gagai dives over to score during the Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles clash. (Getty Images)
Allegiant Stadium, pictured here during the Roosters and Broncos game.
A general view of Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas during the Roosters and Broncos game. (Getty Images)

American viewers in frenzy over NRL games in Las Vegas

Indigenous champion Johnathan Thurston was stunned over the allegation while commentating on Channel 9, while Broncos fullback Reece Walsh was also in disbelief that it could have happened. The nasty allegation has taken some of the shine off what was a rousing success for the NRL in its attempt to crack the American market.

People in the US were raving over the spectacle, with the lack of pads and helmets worn by the NRL stars of particular note. “Lots of speed, athleticism, some great ball handling and extremely physical," one pundit wrote. "There’s a lot to like here and a lot to learn."

Another commented: "This NRL is hella fun to watch. Australia is wild. Almost everything that moves there can kill you, including rugby. It's brutal. I'm all in, though. The one team scored, and I have no clue about the rules, but let's go."

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