Friday night saw another one of the National Rugby League’s ugly flaws rear its head again.
This time it was Ben Te’o knocking Matt Groat clean out and staying on the field. All the while, Groat is scratched and the Wests Tigers are down a player for the remainder of the game.
The Te’o hit and its legality is an argument for someone else at another time. You could say it was simply a perfect shoulder charge and unlucky for Groat. You could argue that contact was on the chin and deserves sanction.
The point is that Groat didn’t play another second of the game and the Tigers were down a player. Te’o was placed on report and the Broncos continued with seventeen men.
Who in their right mind believes that is fair?
If Groat is taken from the field due to injury from an illegal play, the perpetrator must leave the field with the victim and cannot return unless the victim returns.
Referees refuse to sin bin players in this day and age let alone send them from the field. This is the closest thing we can get to it. And it not only takes the pressure of the referees to do something about it, it puts the onus back on the player and whether he will continue to shoulder charge and risk time on the sidelines.
Tigers coach Tim Sheens wants to go down a similar path.
“He got him right on the point of the chin and he was out before he hit the ground” Sheens said at the post match press conference.
“It will be argued there was shoulder contact to the head. I’m not going to predict if they will cite him – I imagine they will – and if he does miss games, it will be the team they play next week who get the advantage, not us tonight.
“The issue today with referees, unlike the 70s and 80s, you get a really good replay of it, and if (video referee) Sean Hampstead didn’t think it was worth sending off, they normally tip them (the referees) off. “They put them on report, and I still think that’s the soft option, but they’re not to know the kid is out cold and can’t come back on.”
Manly’s Brett Stewart suffered a similar fate in the 2007 Grand Final when he was knocked out by Melbourne’s Michael Crocker with a shot that would have been put on report today.
Stewart failed to return, Crocker stayed on and Melbourne won the game easily.
Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin also spoke at the post match presser.
“I’d have to have a closer look at it, but it’s a shoulder charge. All of a sudden they’re illegal,” Griffin said.
“Anyone who understands the game understands a shoulder charge is not intentional. If you go in with a swinging forearm and the guy clocks him on the chin, they deserve everything they get.
“If he hadn’t stung the guy that well and he got up and played the ball, it would have been ‘play on’.
“If we’re going to be like that, they’ll just have to ban shoulder charges and be like rugby union – but I don’t know if we want to be like rugby union.”
The judiciary may find the tackle okay, but we wouldn’t know until the following week. Until then, if a player is knocked out and doesn’t return due to a suspected illegal tackle, both players leave the field.