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Spencer Leniu hotel incident emerges as NRL takes action over Ezra Mam allegation

The NRL has announced its next move after the Roosters recruit was accused of a racial slur.

Players from the Brisbane Broncos and Sydney Roosters have reportedly clashed in a Las Vegas hotel in the wake of the ugly allegation against Spencer Leniu. The Roosters recruit was accused of making a racial slur against Brisbane's Indigenous star Ezra Mam, late in his side's 20-10 win over the Broncos.

The controversy has overshadowed the NRL's historic season-opening spectacle in Las Vegas that was otherwise hailed as a huge success. Mam could be heard telling referee Adam Gee in the second half of Brisbane's defeat to the Roosters that "he called me a monkey", in a serious allegation levelled against Leniu.

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

The NRL launched an immediate investigation into the alleged incident, with CEO Andrew Abdo confirming to Fox Sports News on Monday morning (AEDT) that Leniu had been charged. Abdo added that the case had been sent straight to the NRL judiciary.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys told News Corp the NRL “will not tolerate any form of racism... full stop”, and added that the case was part of a thorough investigation. “At the same time, the player (Leniu) has to be given due process and natural justice so it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further,” V’landys added. “But we take these matters seriously.”

Mam was reportedly left in tears after the final siren and emotions were still running high hours later in the Las Vegas hotel where both teams were staying. Witnesses have confirmed that players from both sides exchanged words as they passed each other at the Hilton at Resorts World in Las Vegas after arriving back from the game.

It's understood there was no threat of a physical altercation, and Leniu was ushered down the corridor by club staff as words were exchanged. The teams were sharing the same floor at the hotel.

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?". The Roosters recruit also told Triple M after the game that he was not "worried at all" about possible repercussions and brushed it off as "just fun and games on the field".

Broncos support Ezra Mam as NRL investigates claim

However, Mam is adamant he was racially vilified and Broncos coach Kevin Walters said they would stand by their player. "He's pretty upset in there," Walters said in his post-match press conference. "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."

Seen here, Brisbane Broncos five-eighth Ezra Mam in action against the Roosters in Las Vegas.
Brisbane Broncos five-eighth Ezra Mam is seen here in action against the Roosters in Las Vegas. Pic: Getty

The challenge the NRL faces is finding evidence from its review of footage and audio from the match that proves Mam's claim about Leniu are accurate. A similar incident occurred in 2020 when Tyrone Peachey accused Mitchell Barnett of a racial slur. Barnett denied the allegation and escaped sanction because there was insufficient evidence to charge him.

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Warriors winger Marcelo Montoya was suspended for four games in 2022 for a homophobic slur in a match against North Queensland, after being hit with a contrary conduct charge. While back in 2009, Cronulla legend Paul Gallen was fined $10,000 for a racial slur against St George Illawarra's Mickey Paea. The Sharks premiership winner made a public apology and stood down as the club's captain as a result.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson said he understood the seriousness of the allegation against Leniu and Mam's insistence about what he heard, but said it was up to the NRL to conduct a thorough investigation. “So Ezra is adamant... that doesn’t mean it’s right," Robinson said. "He obviously made the complaint but that doesn’t mean that it’s right, it will go through the formal process as it should”.

with AAP

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