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Spencer Leniu decision comes back to haunt NRL as new footage comes to light

Leniu has been charged and will front the NRL judiciary after being accused of a racial slur.

New vision has emerged that reportedly shows the verbal clash between Spencer Leniu and Brisbane's Ezra Mam that has seen the Roosters recruit admit to using a racial slur. Leniu was charged on Monday and sent straight to the NRL judiciary after the forward was accused of calling Brisbane's Indigenous five-eighth a "monkey" in the second half of the round one clash in Las Vegas.

On Thursday, the prop admitted to racially abusing Mam and pleaded guilty ahead of his judiciary hearing. Leniu admitted his guilt but claimed he didn't mean the slur in a racial conotation. "I want to apologise to Ezra and his family for using the word I did and I am sincerely sorry to cause him such distress," he said. "I've put my hand up and want to take ownership of this. I said the word but I didn't mean it in a racist way. Anyone who knows me knows that's not who I am."

Leniu was one of the four players who initially flew to Las Vegas to spruik the game to America and help drum up publicity for the NRL. That decision to send Leniu could now come back to haunt the NRL if the allegations against the Roosters recruit are proven - a result that would likely see him slapped with a long ban.

The Spencer Leniu controversy comes after he was one of the players who initially flew to Las Vegas to help promote the NRL spectacle in America. Pic: Nine/Getty
The Spencer Leniu controversy comes after he was one of the players who initially flew to Las Vegas to help promote the NRL spectacle in America. Pic: Nine/Getty

“Spencer Leniu was one of the players who came over here in December on the promotional tour that were really trying to push rugby league and this experiment into the local market,” Fox League's James Hooper said on NRL 360 on Monday night. “I have got to say he did a fantastic job. He was such a good fella. I hadn’t met him previously.

“But if this is proven to be true, I think he is going to be looking at a big stint (on the sidelines).” NRL 360 host Braith Anasta said racism had no place in the game and agreed that Leniu would be in big trouble if the claims against him are proven.

Footage pinpoints contentious Spencer Leniu moment

It comes as Channel Nine aired new vision of the incident that reportedly shows the moment Leniu exchanged words with Mam. The footage showed Mam in the background while Leniu tackled his Brisbane teammate Payne Haas, before appearing to turn and shout something in the direction of the Broncos five-eighth.

Brisbane players could be heard yelling out to referee Adam Gee that Leniu had called Mam a "monkey" before the whistleblower called over Mam and captains James Tedesco and Adam Reynolds. “Ezra has made a formal complaint that’s racial in nature against Spencer, I haven’t heard it, the incident goes on report and it will be dealt with after, that’s where it’s left,” Gee said.

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The teams were staying on the same floor of the same hotel in Las Vegas and Leniu reportedly confronted Mam and other Broncos players when they arrived back there after the game. Patrick Carrigan and Kotoni Staggs reportedly exchanged words with Leniu at the Hilton at Resorts World, before the Roosters player was taken away by a team official. Leniu was reportedly fuming that Mam didn't leave the incident on the field.

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

Broncos applauded for calling out alleged racism

But plenty of others have commended Mam and the Broncos for taking a stand to call out the alleged racist slur and not leaving it on the field. NRL 360 regulars Paul Kent and Phil Rothfield said there was never any excuse for racism, and suggested the fact the controversy erupted while the NRL was trying to sell the game to America made it even worse.

“I think the big thing that we have got to remember is the millions of dollars it took to bring this game here to America to sell the game to get the game broadcast in America and then we come up with this,” Kent said. “This is a country that is particularly sensitive to those types of allegations. For the life of me I don’t know how it happens."

Rothfield said: “I don’t think it matters where it happens. I don’t think it matters when or where." While Kent agreed with that assertion, he said the players should have been "overly cautious" with their actions while in America, knowing full well they were representing the sport.

“I actually applaud the Broncos for making an allegation and not withdrawing it and not leaving it on the football field as we have seen time and again in rugby league,” Rothfield added. “Something has been said and they wanted it fully investigated. Kevin Walters and the Broncos are right behind Ezra Mam. It is a no go.”

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