http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegrap...001021,00.html NRL's bid to stop Manly fullback Brett Stewart playing Bulldogs Exclusive by Phil Rothfield March 11, 2009 09:45am THE NRL is on the verge of standing down Manly's champion fullback Brett Stewart in the opening round of the premiership this weekend. Chief executive David Gallop is this morning in crisis talks with Manly officials, who defied the NRL late last night by clearing Stewart to play against the Bulldogs on Saturday despite the star being charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl. Senior NRL sources have told the Daily Telegraph Online that Gallop is determined to overturn the Manly board decision later today. Manly is also facing a fine of about $200,000 today as a result of the team's disgraceful behaviour at its season launch last Friday evening. Meanwhile, Cronulla chief executive Tony Zappia says he probably would have stood down Stewart if the fullback was at his club. Zappia today likened Stewart's situation to that of Greg Bird, who was suspended by Cronulla after being charged with assaulting his girlfriend last year - a case which is still before the courts. Zappia said the Bird decision was made in the interest of the club and the league. "Whether the players like (it) or not, they are considered to be role models," Zappia said. "Our big thing is now we want to change the culture in our game, and in particularly at our club, where players understand what their responsibilities are." Asked if he would have stood down Stewart, Zappia said: "More than likely, yes." He added: "Possibly I would apply the similar situation to what the club did with Greg Bird." He said the views of team sponsors did play a role in the Bird decision. "I think we need to provide them that opportunity to have some input in the process," Zappia said. "I'm not saying that they will make the decision for clubs or sports but we need to understand their situation as well." NSW minister for women Verity Firth said Stewart should adhere to the league's recommendation that he step down. "While everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence, the minister agrees with the NRL that Brett Stewart should stand aside until the matter is resolved," a spokeswoman said. Stewart's lawyer Geoff Bellew said the case against his client could go on for a year before it was settled. "The suggestion that an allegation or a charge automatically requires the suspension or worse, the termination of a player's contract, is just lunacy," Bellew stormed. Last year the Australian Olympic Committee dropped swimmer Nick D'Arcy from its team for the Beijing Olympics while an assault charge against him was still before the courts.