The Roar
The Roar


The faceless men of the NRL judiciary

Roar Guru
30th May, 2014
1656 Reads

Irrespective of your team’s colours, you know the NRL judiciary is, let’s say, inconsistent.

However we use the term judiciary as though it is a creature in itself – a mystical being that, despite the actual history of its decisions, is impartial and serving the interests of the game.

You know, like the Independent Commission.

We use comments like ‘that tackle will go to the judiciary’, or ‘the judiciary will determine… the judiciary based the decision on…’.

But how many fans – or commentators for that matter – actually know what the judiciary is?

Who are the panel members on the judiciary? How are the people in the judiciary appointed? Who appoints them? Who audits them? Who determines if they remain or are replaced?

If you can’t answer these questions, maybe you believe in the inherent good of people in responsible positions. Maybe you believe that you shouldn’t criticise people trying to do a good and honest job in difficult circumstances.

If that is the case, I’m sure you stick up equally for both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott whenever you discuss politics because both are equally noble creatures doing their best for our nation with no unstated agenda, no allegiances and no factional deals.

‘Ahhh’ I hear you say, “but the judiciary is not political – it is an arbitrator somewhat like a judge’.


And in a sense you would be correct – the judiciary should indeed be impartial and only assess the elements of each case against the points of law in the game. And I’m sure you could then point out the parts of the rulebook that have been breached and demonstrate that the judiciary has assessed each element of the player’s actions when determining their fate. You know, like a real judge has to.

But we all know this isn’t the case.

In the Alex McKinnon example, the judiciary stated in its response that the severe penalty on McLean was in-part a response to McKinnon’s severe injuries and made to protect the game’s image. This is a self-incriminating statement by the judiciary, recognising that they are not purely judicial and that they are in fact also political in their decisions.

There have been several tackles since the NRL judiciary ruled on the McKinnon case – some of which have been more reckless and more dangerous, but none of which have resulted in a similar suspension. The State of Origin two-man tackle by Josh Reynolds and Beau Scott on Brent Tate was certainly reckless and dangerous – however the NRL judiciary decision means they will not lose even a single club game, let alone a ban for Origin 2.

So is the almighty being, the judiciary, responsible for the Reynolds decision and others? Or should the judiciary’s panel members, obviously legally-trained and impartial to the game’s politics, be held accountable?

Let’s start to answer some of those questions: Who are the NRL judiciary panel members? How were they appointed and who appointed them? How are they audited and the performance measured? Who appoints them and who determines whether they remain or are replaced?

If you can’t answer these questions, you must find NRL judiciary outcomes very confusing.