Te'o family name being 'dragged through mud'

GLENN JACKSON AND ADRIAN PROSZENKO
Last updated 14:31 24/05/2013
Ben Te'o
Getty Images
CLAIMS REFUTED: Ben Te'o has denied any wrongdoing after a woman was allegedly assaulted.

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The NRL's integrity unit has moved quickly to investigate the assault allegations against Ben Te'o, interviewing the Auckland-born South Sydney forward at length while his father claimed the family's name was "being dragged through the mud".

Investigators interviewed Te'o in the Rabbitohs offices for several hours yesterday where the 26-year-old reportedly said he was attempting to restrain the woman, Katie Lewis, who accused the Queensland forward of striking her repeatedly last month in the home of Brisbane Broncos player Corey Norman.

She suffered a fractured eye socket and says she was left unconscious of the floor while Te'o, Norman and Newcastle fullback Darius Boyd left the premises in the early hours of April 21.

South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson said he had handed ''every bit of information'' over to investigators.

That includes photographs of Te'o taken after the incident, which are alleged to show a mark on his temple, said to have been made when Lewis was attacking him with a stiletto-heeled shoe, as well as photographs of a damaged door and a medical assessment of the player by the club.

''I don't know how long [the investigation] is going to take, I don't know who they're going to interview. We're just waiting for the outcome,'' Richardson said.

Richardson also defended himself against the suggestion that he should have reported the incident to the NRL sooner. NRL chief executive Dave Smith said on Wednesday he was first notified of the allegations at 9pm (NZT) on Tuesday.

Yet Richardson said he had informed NRL officials on Monday, having been briefed by Channel Nine over the network's interview with Lewis. ''The bottom line is, 10 minutes after we were informed by Channel Nine [of the allegations], we told the NRL,'' he said.

Richardson maintained that, having no official complaint, he did not believe it was necessary to inform the NRL after Te'o first raised the incident with him on the Monday after it occurred.

In defending the decision not to inform the NRL, Richardson said: ''The player came to us over the incident. No one else made contact with us. We've never been contacted by the police, there was nothing on Facebook or Twitter. There was nothing apart from what Ben Te'o told us. There was no reason for us to go to the NRL.''

Teo's father Tili said the family name had been unnecessarily "dragged through the mud"
but is confident his son will emerge from investigations with his reputation intact.

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Te'o has maintained he acted appropriately during ''unfortunate circumstances''; Queensland police are not investigating the incident but Lewis indicated she may still press charges after initially declining to pursue the matter.

Tili Te'o told Fairfax Media from Auckland: ''I am more than 100 per cent confident he didn't do anything like that.

''Obviously the integrity unit is going through the facts, and the true facts will come out. My wife and I raise our children in a Christian, Catholic, proper way. To respect everyone.

"Of course, like any father, I'm very proud of what he's achieved. At the same time we have to accept stuff that comes with it. The truth will come out and people will know about this young lady.''

Tili Te'o said the publicity from the incident had taken a heavy toll on the entire family. ''It's not just Ben, the family name is dragged into the mud,'' he said.

''The people who listen to these allegations and make a programme out of it, it's not just Ben that's being dragged down here. He carries our surname, and our whole family is affected."

Lewis told her side of the story in an interview that aired on Wednesday night. Her father Ashley Lewis then publicly supported her on the same channel on yesterday evening.

''The worst part is how Kate will cope. I'm absolutely disgusted in these fellas in what they've done to Kate,'' he told Channel Nine.

Te'o has not been stood down by South Sydney and will play Cronulla on Monday night.

Rugby League Players' Association boss David Garnsey said he was comfortable with the decision to allow Te'o to continue playing until the investigation was complete.

''In circumstances here where there are no charges laid - and the clubs have obviously spoken to the players involved - I don't think there is any issue with that at the moment,'' Garnsey said.

''They are allegations in the context where there are no charges laid. Those involved have denied any wrongdoing. They are entitled to a presumption of innocence here but they are concerning allegations nonetheless.''

Norman is scheduled to play for the Broncos against the Bulldogs in Sydney tonight while Boyd flew out of Sydney today for the Knights clash with the New Zealand Warriors at Mt Smart on Sunday.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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