NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg has admitted the league "overcooked" the heavy sanctions dished out to halfback Mitchell Pearce for his infamous Australia Day antics in which he simulated sex with a dog.
As chief operating officer Nick Weeks addressed club chief executives in Brisbane about the NRL's plan to bring in fixed penalties for off-field indiscretions, it can be revealed Greenberg made the stunning admission about Pearce's sanctions while addressing the premiers in a scheduled club visit last week.
In March 2016, Pearce was suspended for eight matches and fined a whopping $125,000 for bringing the game into disrepute after a drunken rampage at a female's apartment.
The vision of him pretending to have sex with a poodle-cross made headlines around the world. Pearce eventually left the club at the end of the following season to join Newcastle when the Roosters signed Cooper Cronk.
At the time and ever since, the Roosters and the Pearce camp have been furious about the heavy-handed sanctions. Roosters chairman Nick Politis has in particular been critical of the perceived double standards.
While Pearce was never charged by police, Australian captain Greg Inglis was stood down for just two matches after he was caught drink driving and speeding on grand final day last year.
The Pearce sanction was meted out by former ARL Commission chairman John Grant, who was also filling in as chief executive after Dave Smith resigned. Greenberg was head of football at the time.
The NRL has for some time been grappling with how best to treat integrity issues. In the past five years, more than 180 sanctions have been handed to players for misconduct.
Head office will know next week if its "no-fault" stand down policy will survive when Justice Melissa Perry hands down her judgement in Dragons forward Jack de Belin's case against the ARL Commission.
Weeks told club bosses on Friday that the NRL intends to take disciplinary matters out of the hands of clubs. He also flagged the possibility of having set penalties for certain indiscretions, although he maintains that many should remain on a case-by-case basis.
"Over a number of years, we have seen a significant reduction in the number of off-field incidents, and this has helped to improve the reputation of the sport," Weeks said. "Unfortunately, during the off-season we have had a number of players charged with serious offences, which has undone much of the improvement of recent years.
"This remains a work-in-progress, but the Commission has asked us to explore options to strengthen our integrity systems so that we can more effectively protect the reputation of the sport."