'We have to be better': Highlanders chief executive speaks out after Shannon Frizell assault allegation
Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark has called for his players, and the franchise as a whole, to “be better” in the wake of Shannon Frizell’s alleged involvement in an assault on a woman in Dunedin last weekend.
Police investigations are ongoing following reports of an assault, of which Frizell is alleged to have been involved in, at a bar at around 2:30am on Sunday.
The 27-year-old loose forward, who has been arguably the best players for the Highlanders this year, has subsequently been omitted from the club’s side to face the Reds in the opening fixture of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman this Friday.
Fronting media on Wednesday, Clark said that while Frizell has not been charged by police, it was in the “best interests” of the involved parties for the 13-test All Black to sit out their upcoming clash against the newly-crowned Super Rugby AU champions.
“I think it’s important for us all to remember at this time that these are allegations and no charges have been laid,” Clark said.
“However, this has been a distraction for the player and the team, and in the best interests of everyone concerned, we’re going to omit Shannon from the team this week.”
Clark confirmed the Highlanders have investigated the matter, but added the franchise have left the matter in the hands of the police.
He said he would “be surprised” if any charges were laid against Frizell.
“I’d be surprised. That’s just based on what I know, so it’s a personal opinion,” Clark said.
He noted the decision to stand Frizell down from this weekend’s match was “important” as the incident has been “been a massive distraction” for both the player in question and the franchise as a whole.
Clark assured that the Highlanders have given Frizell the necessary support as he claimed that, “as an employer”, the franchise have “responsibilities” to support their employees.
This isn’t the first time in the last 12 months that the Highlanders have found themselves at the centre of off-field controversy.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 12, 2021
Earlier this year, six players – including star playmaker Josh Ioane – were suspended for one match for breaching team protocols after police were called to a party at Ioane’s house.
It came after the Highlanders apologised after seven of their players were involved in a drunken night out in Queenstown last July.
Clark said lessons need to be learned from the players’ indiscretions in order to avoid future situations such as these.
“For me, the challenge is making sure that these guys are prepared professionally and they don’t compromise themselves in a compromising position.”
He believes the Highlanders, New Zealand Rugby and the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association are doing enough to prepare players for the pitfalls that come with being a professional rugby player, but acknowledged there are challenges that come with “dealing” with “young men” in the profession.
“I think, for me, that’s an ongoing challenge for us when we’re dealing with 50 young men from the ages of 19 to, say, 30 and that’s something we strive to be better at every day,” Clarke said of how players are prepared for a career in professional rugby.
The Highlanders will be without under-fire All Blacks star Shannon Frizell for their opening Super Rugby Trans-Tasman clash against the Reds in Dunedin on Friday. #SuperRugbyTransTasman https://t.co/2rmmUfj7cC
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 12, 2021
“Any time something happens, it’s completely unacceptable, and we do our very, very best every time to learn from each of those and try and get better.
“It’s something we’ll address again through the season, and at the end of the season, to be better again, because we have to be.”
Interim Highlanders head coach Clarke Dermody said that, despite the loss of Frizell for the Reds clash, he has full faith in those selected to pick up a result at Forsyth Barr Stadium two days’ time.
“As far as on-field, Shannon’s a big part of our team. He’s been playing great footy for us, but I’ve got full faith in the guys to come in and do a job for us this week.
“We’re more just looking forward to starting a new comp.”
Kick-off for Friday’s match is scheduled for 7:05pm [local time].
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