IRRESPECTIVE of the outcome of last night’s judiciary hearing, something is horribly wrong with the NRL judicial system for Wade Graham to miss his State of Origin debut on the back of that Monday night tackle on Johnathan Thurston.
Agreed, the tackle was high, and it knocked Thurston off his feet. And, from most TV angles, it did not look great. Graham needed to be penalised – and sanctioned by more than just a penalty on the field.
But it was a tackle without malice, with Thurston no doubt falling into Graham’s swinging arm. It’s a tackle we see in the game on an almost weekly basis.
For Graham to miss an Origin match – his first – for that tackle is unjust, and even the most one-eyed Queensland supporter would struggle to rationalise the decision.
For an age I have advocated that suspensions incurred in NRL matches should be served in NRL matches, and penalties incurred in rep games served in rep games. But an overrider is needed, where serious transgressions can be dealt with differently.
Graham’s charge was the lowest possible – a grade-one careless high tackle. It attracted 75 demerit points and had he not had carry-over points from a prior offence last season – playing for the Sharks – he would have been free to suit up on Wednesday night.
What commonsense should allow is for Graham to play in Origin, then miss the Sharks’ round 16 match against the Warriors.
Punishment for an illegality in a rep game is more problematic.
If an offending player is deemed to deserve to serve time, then that time should be served in that same rep arena, be it Origin or Test. Detractors to this suggestion might advocate that an out-of-form player who might never be selected for rep footy again escapes punishment. And then there is the case of a player in his swansong match creating on-field mayhem knowing he cannot be censured.
So maybe a more workable system – sending a stronger deterrent for foul play – is to fine the offending player his match bonus, which in the case of an Origin is $30,000. Ouch.
My argument is not just that a player should not miss an Origin or Test match for a minor incident in an NRL game, but also that a club should not be without one of its stars for an incident that occurred in a rep game. In both cases it is grossly unfair – one on the player, the other on his club.
Surely smarter minds than me, being paid big bucks and sitting in plush offices at NRL headquarters, can make the system fairer.
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