NRL's case against Spencer Leniu takes blow as audio detail comes to light

Leniu is accused of using a racial slur against Ezra Mam in a Las Vegas controversy that has rocked the NRL.

A lack of audio or concrete evidence looms as a major factor in the NRL's case against Roosters prop Spencer Leniu, who has been accused of racially vilifying Broncos star Ezra Mam. Brisbane's Indigenous five-eighth alleged during his side's 20-10 win over the Roosters in Las Vegas that Leniu called him a "monkey" during the second half, with a number of Broncos teammates backing up the claim.

Footage of the incident aired on Channel Nine this week reportedly showed the moment Leniu exchanged words with Mam after tackling his Brisbane teammate Payne Haas. The Roosters forward appeared to turn and shout something in the direction of the Broncos five-eighth, but the incident was not picked up by audio from the broadcast or from the referee's microphone.

Seen here, Spencer Leniu during the NRL game between the Roosters and Brisbane.
Spencer Leniu's NRL judiciary hearing looks set to hinge on player testimony with a lack of audio evidence of the alleged incident in the game between the Roosters and Brisbane. Pic: Getty/NRL

Referee Adam Gee placed the incident on report after admitting at the time that he did not hear the alleged slur. However, Mam was adamant about what he heard and was reportedly left in tears about the incident after the game, with Broncos teammates and coach Kevin Walters vowing to stand behind the player.

Leniu has subsequently been charged by the NRL, with his case sent straight to a judiciary hearing that will likely happen next Tuesday, following the completion of the other round one games. Speaking about the incident on NRL 360 on Tuesday night, News Corp's Dave Riccio said he would have liked the see the NRL judiciary hearing happen sooner than next week, and suggested the lack of evidence made it hard to prove whether or not Leniu was guilty.

'No actual audio' of alleged Spencer Leniu slur

“At this stage the judicial hearing will be next Tuesday, which I think is a little bit too long,” Riccio said. “I think for an issue this big on the platform that it unfolded, I think the NRL need to act a little bit more swiftly than what it is currently.

“The interesting part of this is there is no actual audio of Spencer making the (alleged) derogatory comment due to the audio mic distance between the players and the referee. So it is going to be a large case of Roosters players up against Broncos players and Ezra Mam, so it is going to be interesting to see how the judiciary handles that with no clear evidence.”

Brisbane star Ezra Mam has accused Roosters recruit Spencer Leniu of making a racial slur towards him. Pic: Fox League/Getty
Brisbane star Ezra Mam has accused Roosters recruit Spencer Leniu of making a racial slur towards him. Pic: Fox League/Getty

Fellow NRL 360 panelists Paul Kent and Brent Read both claimed that a number of Broncos players heard the same alleged slur that has landed Leniu in hot water. “It is basically one or two men’s word against another and they have got to decide who is telling the truth and who isn’t,” Read said. “And there is a couple of Broncos witnesses too.”


Judiciary to rely on testimony of players

Kent added: “Some of the Broncos players claim that they heard it. The interesting thing about this is Spencer Leniu has spoken to a number of people throughout this and he has not denied it. Secondly a lot of players have jumped onto their social media accounts and I think they need to learn to shut up.

“Coaches and players are not allowed to talk about any other incidents that are before the judiciary in any other aspect of the game. And with something as inflammatory as this, while no one wants to condone what he said, by the same token Leniu is entitled to have his say.

Kent was referring to a number of players such as Latrell Mitchell and Nicho Hynes, who have come out in support of Mam and called for a lengthy ban if Leniu is found guilty. “You don’t really know what to say about it, we just have to support the hell out of Ezra and make sure it doesn’t happen again," Hynes said.

The comments from fellows players have led to concerns from Leniu’s manager that the public scrutiny of the Roosters player will make it difficult for him to get a fair hearing. “We have to let this play out before the judiciary, but it is obviously very disturbing and there is a lot of players that have come out and supported Ezra Mam in terms of how he handled it all," Read added. “He was quite emotional and he was in tears after the game. We have to leave it in the hands of the judiciary and see how it plays out.”

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