An emotional Paul Vaughan broke his silence on NRL 360 after being sacked by the Dragons — but Ray Hadley is “not tumbling for it” and has revealed some concerning new details surrounding Vaughan’s Covid party.
Vaughan’s $800,000-per season contract was torn up on Tuesday after a Dragons board meeting.
In his first interview, the 30-year-old told the NRL 360 it was a “terrible judgment call” by him. However Hadley launched a ferocious tirade following the interview, slamming Vaughan and questioning how genuine he is.
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“I’m not tumbling for it,” Hadley said before reading out the apology Vaughan made after he broke Covid protocols last year.
“Your question to him Paul Kent was ‘how much trouble did you think you were in? When were you aware?… ‘pretty early on’ he said. Well, was he aware when he encouraged players to lie to the integrity commission, to get them in a Zoom meeting and to lie to the club?
“Was he feeling pressure then? Or before then? I don’t tumble for it.
“I’d be crying too if I just lost an $800,000 contract and couldn’t pay my mortgage. But this puts the game at risk.
“I’m sorry for Paul Vaughan, I’m even sorrier for his wife and daughter. But I’m not as sorry as many other people may be because I’ve heard it all before, I heard it last year. He even lied on a QR code at that cafe and pretended he was someone else.
“He’s got some form, he’s copping it and he needs to cop it.
“You know what they’re all sorry about now? Particularly Paul Vaughan, he got caught. That’s what he’s sorry about. That’s why he’s crying, he got caught.
“Had he not got caught, had they not made as much noise that they made, had the police not been called no one would have known any more about it.”
Vaughan was whacked with a $50,000 fine, with the NRL handing down a total of $305,000 worth of sanctions to the 13 players involved. They were also fined $1,000 by NSW Police for breaking strict stay at home orders.
However, Hadley revealed the law enforcement’s interest in the party is not over.
“The NSW Commissioner of Police, Mick Fuller is currently sending one of his best teams to investigate the allegations that other people were at the house through the day. The NRL believe women arrived to get their husbands, boyfriends and take them home.
“The coppers aren’t tumbling for it, they’re looking at an investigation to see if women were there through the day, therefore breaking the COVID bubble and therefore putting the entire game at risk.
“If they can find a reliable witness to say that there were women inside, there may be video of it, everyone’s got CCTV in their street these days.
“If it goes down that particular path, and they’ve got to get evidence, they can’t just go off speculation, they’ve got to get people prepared to make statements. But they’re in those stages and Mick Fuller said ‘yes we are investigating those reports at the moment’.
“So obviously they don’t put as much credence as the NRL Integrity Unit put into the claims that the players were there by themselves.”
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It comes after NRL CEO Andrew Abdo told Channel Nine that the governing body will re-open their investigations if it is discovered that there were more than just the players at the party.
“We will re-open the investigation. That’s pretty serious. We’ve given the players multiple opportunities to tell us everything,” Abdo said.
“If there’s additional information we will look at it and take significant action if that’s the case. if there are repeat offences we will not hesitate to remove people from the bubble.”
The Daily Telegraph’s Paul Crawley stressed just how dangerous it would be for the game if there were people present from outside of the bubble.
“(The investigation) has the potential to bring the next game the Dragons play (in Round 18) to a grinding halt,” he said.
To make matters worse, Paul Kent said none of the players present at the party have had a COVID test yet.
“It only takes one positive (case) and my understanding is that none of them have actually had a COVID test since that party to make sure they are all clear.”
That information sparked Crawley to urge players to come forward.
“If this is true, one of these players has to stand up right now and yes ‘yes it is true’ because if they find out on Wednesday when the players arrive back at training and it goes through the whole team, St George Illawarra won’t be able to field a team,” he said.
It’s been reported that witnesses saw both men and women running away from Vaughan’s house the police turned up. Kent has touched base with the NRL on these reports and revealed the governing body isn’t convinced.
“The NRL said to me that they believe it was the women there to pick (the players) up to take them home. I said ‘do you believe that?’ and the NRL’s response was ‘no, but that’s the version which we’ve triple checked’,” Kent said.
“They want to believe it,” Hadley responded.
“Because they know the consequence if that’s true. The consequence is the (Round 18) game against Manly will be a forfeit, they won’t have enough troops to play. Then that puts the competition at risk.”
Hadley also took a swing at Jack de Belin, who he believes should have been hit just as hard as Vaughan.
De Belin copped a $42,000 fine by the NRL but only a one-match ban as opposed to Vaughan’s eight games — and crucially — is still employed.
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“Jack de Belin, and this is nothing relating to prior events involving de Belin, this is about what happened on Saturday. He bald-faced lied to the integrity unit, he bald-faced lied to his CEO and comes out of it in a much better position than Vaughan. That’s not fair,” Hadley said.
“Do you know why? Because he’s a better player,” Paul Kent added.
“And he’s an asset the Dragons want to keep. What does that say about their culture?” Paul Crawley added.