Canberra: The captain of one of Australia’s biggest National Rugby League (NRL) teams has been suspended after footage emerged of him in a drunken stupor on Australia Day.
The 90-second video, taken at a house party on Tuesday, shows Sydney Roosters captain Mitchell Pearce picking up the house owner’s dog and pretending to perform a sexual act before he is told by the owner to put the animal down. Pearce, who appeared to have urinated on himself, also harasses one of the women in the house, reports Xinhua.
The NSW state representative’s alcohol-fueled escapade has sparked widespread outrage from the NRL community and animal rights groups.
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Before the video was aired on Wednesday evening, the NRL — the world’s leading rugby league competition — announced that their investigative body, the NRL Integrity Unit, was already aware of the incident.
“The club wishes to advise that Mitchell Pearce has been stood down from all training commitments until the club concludes its internal investigation,” the Sydney Roosters said in a statement on Thursday morning.
“The club continues to work closely with the NRL Integrity Unit and will be making no further comment at this time.”
On Wednesday, the NSW Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals released a statement that it also would be conducting an investigation of its own.
“RSPCA NSW is appalled by footage showing NRL player Mitchell Pearce engaging in a lewd act with a dog… RSPCA NSW is investigating,” the statement read.
The NRL has grappled with multiple off-field scandals over the past decade centred around player misbehavior.
In 2004, the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs, another Sydney-based club, were embroiled in a sexual assault scandal, involving several unidentified players while on a pre-season trip. The charges were eventually dropped.
Ten years on, NSW players Greg Bird and Todd Carney were caught up in separate media storms involving inappropriate, public urination which brought the code into disrepute and effectively ended Carney’s career in Australia.