Nelson Asofa-Solomona has today accepted sanctions imposed on him following an investigation by the NRL Integrity Unit into an incident in Bali last weekend.
Asofa-Solomona has been suspended for the three upcoming Test matches, in which he was due to represent New Zealand, and handed a suspended fine of $15,000.
“At the time, I was worried about Suli, who had earlier been coward-punched in an unprovoked attack,” Asofa-Solomona said.
“Suli is one of my closest friends and obviously I would never have reacted that way had he not been assaulted earlier inside the bar.
“The last few days have been very tough obviously, but the support I have had from the Club, the RLPA, my family, friends and the fans has been incredible.
“Looking back on this incident, could this have been handled differently? Yes, I could have picked up Suli and got out of there. Unfortunately, that is not the way this played out.
“I understand that as a Storm and NRL player, I’m a role model for kids and I want them to know that meeting violence with violence is not the solution.”
Storm CEO, Dave Donaghy said the club and all the players involved had fully cooperated with the Integrity Unit after reporting the incident on Sunday afternoon.
Following initial discussions with players in Bali, the club arranged for Asofa-Solomona to return immediately to Melbourne where he was met by the club’s wellbeing team on Monday morning.
Storm officials and the NRL’s Integrity Unit conducted interviews with a number of players on Tuesday and Wednesday, including Asofa-Solomona, as part of an investigation into the incident.
“We want our players to able to enjoy themselves, particularly when they are on leave and in their own private time,” Donaghy said.
“Unfortunately, our athletes seem to have become a target in this instance, as evidenced by Suli being assaulted twice by coward punches.
“I’m thankful they’re all now home, safe and well and there were no major injuries sustained to any party during the events of last weekend, where it could have led to much worse outcomes.
“Our organisation will use this as a learning experience, and we’ll address the matter with the entire playing group when they return from their leave.”
Rugby League Players’ Association Chief Executive Officer, Ian Prendergast, said: “The Club and the Integrity Unit have engaged the RLPA throughout this process, and Nelson is accepting of the sanction.
“While we understand players are responsible for their own actions, as a game we also need to look at how we can better protect our athletes in society to ensure they aren’t unfairly targeted and can continue to live relatively normal lives.”