Punishing Semi Radradra for breaking his Parramatta contract would smack of double standards, Wayne Bennett says.
The master coach said it would be unfair if Radradra was penalised by the same NRL club that this year offloaded two contracted players to clear salary cap space and ensure they could play for points.
Parramatta are sweating on Radradra to return from his native Fiji ahead of Saturday’s NRL clash with Cronulla after giving him personal leave to visit his unwell father.
It has fuelled rumours that the Test winger will switch to European rugby.
His future has been further complicated by news his former partner applied for an interim apprehended violence order, claiming he had assaulted her on three occasions between September 2014 and April 2015.
Eels great Peter Sterling said there must be consequences if Radradra did not see out his contract which expires at the end of the 2017 season.
But Bennett said those calling for Radradra to be punished had short memories.
He could not see a difference between Jarryd Hayne leaving for the NFL or Sonny Bill Williams’ abrupt 2008 switch to rugby.
Asked if it would be ridiculous to ban Radradra, Bennett said: “Of course it would be – they didn’t ban Sonny Bill.
“And there have been others.
“Jarryd Hayne was under contract with Parramatta when he left, and we all applauded what he did.
“Contracts are a two way thing, the employee has some rights too.”
Parramatta will reportedly seek $700,000 – including $200,000 for damaging the Eels brand – in compensation from Radradra if he walks.
Bennett said any talk of penalties from Parramatta was a bit rich after they offloaded contracted duo Nathan Peats and Ryan Morgan to clear salary cap space this year.
“You’ve seen Parramatta move on players quickly – they all had contracts too,” he said.
“When it goes the other way and the player doesn’t want to fulfil his part of the contract we all cry poor.
“I have always seen a great unfairness in all that.”
Former Queensland playmaker Ben Ikin said the Eels’ reported demands were “almost laughable”.
“This is the same club through…the mismanagement of their salary cap forced Nathan Peats out of his contract…to move his family interstate (to Gold Coast and) Ryan Morgan had to shift to Melbourne,” Ikin told Fox Sports’ NRL 360 TV show.
“That they (now) want money for contract dollars yet to be earned by Semi and (for) damage to their brand.
“You could not do any more damage to the Parramatta Eels’ brand.”
Meanwhile, Radradra’s sister Vaseva Waqavatu said the Test winger had been upset by the recent domestic violence claims.
“He said it was all bulls**t and made-up stories – we don’t believe he could do something so common,” Waqavatu told News Corp.
The matter is listed for Parramatta court on Tuesday.