Newcastle Jets could be sued over ‘bullying’ and ‘harassment’ of players

Failing to take off: Joel Griffiths is in the bad books with Jets management. Photo: Jonathan Carroll Failing to take off: Joel Griffiths is in the bad books with Jets management. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
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Failing to take off: Joel Griffiths is in the bad books with Jets management. Photo: Jonathan Carroll

Failing to take off: Joel Griffiths is in the bad books with Jets management. Photo: Jonathan Carroll

Professional Footballers Australia has warned the Newcastle Jets they could be sued for “bullying and harassment” if five unwanted players are not allowed to join their teammates in full training.

Senior players Kew Jaliens, Joel Griffiths, Adrian Madaschi, Billy Celeski and David Carney have been in limbo since controversial Jets owner Nathan Tinkler announced they were sacked 16 days ago.

After the intervention of PFA, the players were allowed to resume training until they had agreed to sign termination documents. But for most of the sessions they have been segregated from the main group, a situation PFA chief executive Adam Vivian said was in breach of their rights as employees.

Tension between the players and coach Phil Stubbins reached flashpoint on Thursday when veteran Joel Griffiths unleashed a barrage of expletives, apparently after being told he and Carney were not required for a ball-work exercise.

Jaliens, Madaschi and Celeski had apparently already finished training by this point.

Griffiths was heard telling Stubbins to “have some f—ing respect” before storming away, hurling balls at the turf.

Vivian said Griffiths was merely venting justifiable frustration.

“We’ve spoken to Joel and David Carney, who was a witness to the event today,” Vivian told Fairfax Media. “Our understanding is those boys were being precluded from training once again, and that’s what culminated in Joel having words with the coach. From our perspective, Joel has been reminded of his employment rights and when he identified those rights were being interfered with, he expressed his concerns to Phil.”

Vivian said the PFA would contact Jets officials on Friday to “formally” remind them of the players’ rights.

“Players training alone is invariably one of those situations that will destroy the mutual trust and confidence which is essential to any employment relationship,” he said. “So we’ll obviously address that with the club tomorrow and hopefully we’ll see it remedied.”

Asked what options were available to PFA if the Jets continued to isolate the five rebels, Vivian replied: “There’s plenty of legal avenues we could investigate in that situation.

“If it breaches the standard player contract, if it breaches the collective bargaining agreement, it could potentially constitute bullying and harassment, which falls under employment law.

“So there are plenty of legal levers that we can pull should that be the case, however, we would rather see an amicable resolution than having to go down that path.”

Stubbins initially tried to dismiss his exchange with Griffiths as “just part of the training session” before acknowledging the mood of the players he is intent on discarding.

“I don’t think it’s toxic,” Stubbins said.

“Obviously there’s some angst from the boys not being able to be a full part of everything … once everyone can get across the genuine direction of where we’re moving, then we’ll move forward.”

Stubbins said he was trying to manage the situation “the best I can” and was hopeful it would be resolved quickly.

“The sooner we can put an end to it, and everyone can get some genuine direction as to where they’re going with some real clarity, I think it’s going to be better for everybody,” he said.

Stubbins would appear to have the rock-solid support of Tinkler in the dispute, after the embattled owner said in an interview this week: “I have simply told Phil to make a little naughty corner at training and give them a sandpit and a little ladder, or something, to play on over in the corner of the ground.”

Vivian said, in the circumstances, Griffiths’ outburst was “certainly not grounds for disciplinary action in any way”.

He said the five players would continue to “show up and be professional” until they were satisfied with the terms of their severance deals.

“If the boys can get to a position where they’re comfortable and satisfied with mutual terminations and that their obligations will be met and can move on with their careers, that would obviously give reasonable peace of mind,” he said.

“But at this stage we’re not there yet.”

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