Matt Henjak is free to play in Western Force’s opening Super 14 clash this weekend after a hearing into his alleged altercation with teammate Haig Sare was adjourned until next week.
Rugby Heaven reports that after scathing criticism from the Australian Rugby Union over the club’s handling of the incident, Force bosses fast-tracked a serious misconduct tribunal to tonight.
But both Henjak and Sare asked for the hearing to be delayed to allow their lawyers to go through the case.
“Each of the players involved had requested an adjournment of the hearing to enable them to consider the evidence and, if necessary arrange representation,” RugbyWA said in a statement released late last night.
“The Tribunal considered this a reasonable request and the hearing has been adjourned until Tuesday 19 February 2008 at 4pm.”
The tribunal consisted of Robert Viol, a retired District Court Judge who was acting as chairman, lawyer Stephen Scott and acting RugbyWA chief executive Mitch Hardy.
Troubled scrumhalf Henjak is in Durban preparing to play the Sharks on Friday (Saturday AEDT).
The tribunal said it considered standing down the players pending the result of the hearing.
“The tribunal decided that natural justice required that the players should not be stood down,” the statement said.
“The Tribunal was concerned that standing down the players could suggest some prejudgment of the matter by the Tribunal.”
Any ruling and penalties for the two players would go to the RugbyWA board for approval before being relayed to the ARU, who have threatened to take matters into their own hands if unhappy with the Force response.
Having initially said the process could take up to two weeks, the Force reacted promptly today to the ARU’s angry reaction at Henjak being allowed to tour South Africa and its demand the hearing be fast-tracked.
Sare today gave his account in Perth of Sunday’s bar session and the altercation with Henjak which left him needing surgery to insert a plate in his broken jaw and ruled him out of the first six weeks of the season.
ARU chief executive John O’Neill was furious yesterday that Henjak – a key member of the Force team with a history of off-field indiscretions – was allowed to set off on the three-match trip to South Africa, believing he should have been stood down while such a serious matter was investigated.
He made it clear the Force should deal with the matter promptly, and before Friday’s game if possible.
Acting Force CEO Hardy the ARU would be within their rights to act independently on the matter if unsatisfied, but said the Force were taking the matter very seriously.
“Certainly they would be within their grounds to do that … and the way we have handled the matter is up for debate,” Hardy told Fairfax radio.
“But we have made a decision, and we have to stick by that decision now. We have given everyone an indication we will deal with this matter in a serious way.
“It was a very tight decision to make, and I have given the ARU an undertaking that we will move this as quickly as possible.
“But we were not prepared to assume Matt Henjak guilty until we had all the evidence in front of us.
“I am gathering information … it will be sent to our legal counsel, and then we will set a date and a time for the hearing.”
Hardy said senior players including captain Nathan Sharpe and vice captain Matt Giteau had backed the decision to take Henjak on tour.Tweet