The NRL conceded its integrity unit has to lift its game, after a botched investigation into the Arizona arrest of John Sutton and Luke Burgess was concluded on Monday.
Souths were hit with a $20,000 fine over the incident and former chief executive Shane Richardson cleared of any wrongdoing, but neither Sutton nor Burgess were suspended over their roles in the pre-season off field drama.
The integrity unit re-opened its investigation into the November incident last month, after crucial details were uncovered by the press.
New NRL chief operating officer Suzanne Young conceded the integrity unit needed to improve.
“It would be fair to say that the integrity unit has learnt lessons out of this incident as well and will be improving its processes,” she said.
“I have full confidence in the unit and will continue to support them in their investigations.
“We will be working with the clubs over the coming week to see how we can improve the rules and guidelines for the clubs.
“When we share the updated rules and guidelines we can address which specifics are required to address and close any gaps.”
“We will look at the systems and processes into the investigation and look to improve those.”
“In this situation we can all take lessons as to how it was investigated and take steps to improve.”
Richardson began his job as head of game strategy and development on Monday.
Sutton is free to play in Souths’ season opener against Brisbane on Thursday, while Burgess, who is now with Manly, will play for the Sea Eagles against Parramatta on Friday.
“Our investigation concluded that while the Souths club met its obligations to advise the investigative unit of the incident, it did not follow the matter to its conclusion and should have been more diligent,” Young said.
“The investigative unit was not informed about the payment made to the security officer which led to the matter being dropped.”
Young said the NRL would announce its new guidelines into reporting player misbehaviour within the next fortnight as the game’s governing body again left itself open for criticism over its inconsistency in handing out sanctions.
Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce was banned for a game and hit with a $20,000 fine over his Kings Cross arrest last year.
Samoa internationals Reni Maitua, Tautau Moga and Sauaso Sue missed a Test match and were each fined $10,000 over their involvement in a nightclub brawl during the Four Nations tournament last year.
Paul Gallen was fined $35,000 for an abusive tweet aimed at the NRL late last year.
Souths released a statement late on Monday afternoon saying the club will “consider its position on this matter over the next five business days”.
The Gold Coast cocaine dramas are set to provide the integrity unit’s next test.