Corey Norman will be sidelined for the opening game of the season after receiving a one-match ban and a $20,000 fine for his role in a street brawl.
Corey Norman of the Dragons runs with the ball
The NRL issued Norman a breach notice proposing a two-match ban, with one of those matches suspended for a period of 12 months if the St George Illawarra playmaker doesn't re-offend.
The incident occurred on a Cronulla street on January 22, with Norman and fellow NRL hooker James Segeyaro allegedly racially abused and threatened with a knife. NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said he had taken into account the degree of provocation in determining the proposed penalty.
"We accept there was a degree of provocation which led to the incident, but as a game, we have been very clear that provocation is not an excuse to engage in a street fight,″ Abdo said.
"Our players are role models for younger people in our community and they need to set the example for how to respond in such circumstances. We will always support our players who are subject to any form of abuse, but any form of violence is not an acceptable response."
Corey Norman of the Dragons looks on from the sideline
Norman and Segeyaro released their own statement after the incident to provide their side of the story.
"Chicko [Segeyaro] and Corey were involved in an altercation in Cronulla on Friday night," the statement said. "Before the media have the opportunity to do their thing, we wanted to be fully transparent - here's what happened:
"The two boys were walking home after a dinner with two females when they were approached by a group of four men. One of whom began to racially abuse Chicko, calling him the N-word. An argument ensued and Corey came in to defuse the situation. He was then blindsided and a fight broke out. It had all broken up when one of them threatened to pull a knife.
"As individuals and as a brand, we will always stand up against racism. Sometimes it's as simple as resharing a post or making a video. Other times, it means defending yourself.
"Although we don't condone violence, if there is a time to fight, then let it be against racism, protecting female company, and having your friend's back."
Norman has five business days to respond to the breach notice. His suspension could provide an opportunity for Jayden Sullivan or Adam Clune to partner new Dragons skipper Ben Hunt in the halves for the local derby against Cronulla.
Segeyaro's own career has been at the crossroads after testing positive to Ligandrol in September 2019. The journeyman hooker received a reduced 20-month drug ban on appeal, which will allow him to return to the NRL in June. Sports Integrity Australia has not ruled out the possibility of appealing the ban.
The Dragons are preparing for the final warm-up game, the Charity Shield against South Sydney, after losing their first two trial games.