Huddersfield Giants will start the Super League season next month with almost half a team under a cloud of rape allegations. Six players were arrested and later released on police bail until 18 March after a complaint was made by a 22-year-old woman in the Gosforth area of Newcastle about an alleged rape in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The Huddersfield first-team squad is in the north-east for a week of pre-season training and team-bonding. It is understood that as many as 12 players were interviewed in connection with the incident, which is alleged to have taken place at the team's hotel, the Marriott in Gosforth.
The club has not identified or suspended the players involved. Managing director Richard Thewlis said that, apart from the police investigation, there would be a club probe into the allegations. "I have already confirmed that six of our players were detained by Northumbria Police investigating a serious allegation," Thewlis said. "The club appreciate that the police have a duty to thoroughly investigate all allegations of this nature. We will assist them in any way requested.
"The police will now gather the facts and reach their conclusions. Any speculation is frivolous and risks damaging the reputation of innocent parties, so the full Giants squad will continue to train in Newcastle."
The accusations carry echoes of a number of incidents in Australia, where a series of clubs – most notoriously the Canterbury Bulldogs and Cronulla – have been embroiled in allegations of group sex and sexual assault.
In the absence of any formal identification, Giants players who are not involved were contacting friends in the game yesterday to stress their innocence. The allegations are not the only problem to have afflicted Huddersfield recently. Late last year, their New Zealand international centre Paul Whatuira spent time in a mental-health unit after allegedly assaulting two men in the town centre. Whatuira, who was not charged, has since blamed childhood memories of abuse for a breakdown.
February 2004 Six players were accused of sexual assault following an incident involving a 20-year-old woman. No charges were brought.
March 2009 Manly's Brett Stewart charged with the sexual assault of a teenage girl.
May 2009 Melbourne Storm assistant coach and TV commentator Matthew Johns loses both jobs after admitting to taking part in group sex when playing for Cronulla in 2002.Reuse content