Cronulla have refused to rule out standing down Andrew and David Fifita for the rest of the NRL season even if it comes at the expense of their top-eight hopes.
The pair are the subject of an NRL Integrity Unit investigation after a heated clash with match review officials following a junior rugby league game in Penrith on Saturday.
Cronulla chief executive Lyall Gorman conceded the pair acted inappropriately and swore at officials, but said there was not enough evidence to stand them down.
Gorman said some of the allegations were in dispute, in particular that Andrew threatened violence against the 24-year-old referee after he began filming the incident on his phone.
“Some of the allegations are correct in terms of the match official being inappropriately approached after the match,” Gorman said on Sunday.
“Some foul language occurred towards the match official, there’s no doubt about that.
“There seems to be a little bit more of a grey area in the other second assertion and that’s the facts that we’re trying to tighten up and determine.”
The NRL has asked that they be stood down should any of the allegations be proven true and pledged serious consequences.
“Match officials give up their time because they love the game and the last thing they should be subjected to is abuse or intimidation,” NRL chief executive Dave Smith said.
“It is even more intolerable if someone with the stature of an NRL player is involved – we want the full facts to be presented in this matter.”
Neither were stood down for Sunday’s match with Canterbury at Belmore Sports Ground, with the Sharks saying David was omitted from the 17-man squad on form.
The three officials had to be escorted to their cars after an A-grade game between St Patricks and St Marys at Glenwood.
It has been reported former NSW forward Andrew had to be restrained and physically threatened a referee.
David was filling in as a trainer for St Patricks and after the game abused the referee for not calling a halt to the game when a player was injured.
The referee began filming the episode and Andrew then demanded he hand over the phone, allegedly telling him: “I’ll smash you”.
Gorman said he had not seen the video and expected to receive it by Monday.
The match official’s report will be reviewed on Monday by the Penrith Junior Rugby League, which will decide whether to hand the Fifita brothers a citation.
If they decide to challenge the facts, the matter will go to a full review panel the week after.
The Sharks said they would wait until the outcome of the PJRL hearing before handing down any punishment while the NRL was awaiting the club’s report.
The loss of Andrew Fifita would be a massive blow for the Sharks in their pursuit of a top-eight spot.
He has emerged from the disappointment of being dropped by NSW during this year’s State of Origin series and rebounded to form, scoring in each of his last four outings.
Gorman vowed to come down hard on both if the allegations were proven to be true.
While he would not go into potential penalties, he refused to rule out standing them down for the rest of the year.
“Regardless of what the facts are, we have a zero tolerance towards any behaviour that attacks the integrity, the role or the presence of match officials in junior rugby league or senior rugby league,” Gorman said.
“I’ve been, in another life, a match official and find that behaviour abhorrent and I find it so far against our club, brand and values that we’ve been working so hard on these last nine months.
“I find them very disturbing if they’re proven to be true.”