NEW Dragons skipper Ben Hunt has wasted no time in the leadership stakes, throwing his support behind halves partner Corey Norman as the club moves towards a showdown with the NRL over the suspension that will rule him out of the season-opener.
Norman was issued a breach notice from the NRL on Saturday that slapped him with a two-game suspension, the second game suspended, and a $20,000 fine for his part in a Cronulla street fight in January.
The incident also involved former NRL players James Segeyaro, who claimed he was responding to racial taunts from a group of men when the melee broke out, with Norman coming to Segeyaro's aid.
In handing down the sanction, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo acknowledged the Integrity Unit found there was "a degree of provocation" that sparked the incident, but said violence was "not an acceptable response."
The sanction has been widely criticised as heavy-handed, with Dragons coach Anthony Griffin indicating the club will fight the sanction ahead of his side's round-one clash with Cronulla, with Hunt echoing the call on Monday.
"I drive down [from Sydney] to training every day with him and I remember when it first happened and we talked about it coming down [to training]," Hunt said.
"I just thought geez, some idiot's going around picking a fight and Normy just happened to be the one on the day. I didn't hear about [the sanction] until he got in the car that morning to come to training but, personally, I thought it was pretty harsh.
"I don't know what you're supposed to do in that situation when you've got four blokes having a go at you, you can't just stand back and cop it. What are you meant to do? It's four blokes against two, it would've been four on one if Corey didn't step in and try and help his mate out.
"I think every rugby league player's instinct is to step in and help their mate out. It can be hard to go out there and enjoy yourself when these thing can happen.
"I know the club's going to challenge the ruling and I'll have to leave it up to them but I think it's pretty tough personally."
Segeyaro initially took to social media to explain the players' version of events via the Instagram page of YKTR, the pair's apparel and media company, with Norman enjoying no shortage of broader support.
Former Broncos teammate Alex Glenn took to Instagram to blast the punishment as "absolutely ludicrous" and suggesting players will be vulnerable to further attacks and provocations in public as a result.
"The message you're sending to the public is that anyone can attack us players and no consequences will come their way as they are not public figure, but the players involved will cop the punishment whether we're in the wrong or no. That's the real problem," the post read.
"It's going to take one of us players to get put in the hospital because we can't defend ourselves in fear of your punishment before you realise that this was wrong?"
ARLC chairman Peter V'landys has made it clear the game will be coming down hard on player misbehaviour, largely by hitting players in their hip pocket.
Broncos star Payne Haas was hit with the maximum $50,000 fine and three-game suspension after drunkenly abusing police officers on a night out at Tweed Heads in January, subsequently pleading guilty to a charge of intimidating police.
V'landys has promised heavier fines for any other off-field indiscretions, emboldened by an independent arbiter's decision in its favour over the no-fault stand-down policy that had been subject to a legal challenge from the Rugby League Players' Association.
An attempt to install NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller to the ARLC was aimed at addressing player misbehaviour but the appointment was scuppered on Sunday on the basis of "legal advice" that prevented carrying out both roles.