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Stop the hysteria, Gerry Sutton was absolutely right to bin Napa

We should refrain from constant ref bashing. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Expert
19th May, 2018
142
5511 Reads

While Dylan Napa has not been charged for his head clash with Korbin Sims by the MRC, that does not mean referee Gerard Sutton was wrong to send the big Rooster to the sin bin.

Regardless of the outrage, I completely agree with Sutton’s actions and think he needs the referees boss – his brother Bernard – to come out and stand by Gerard’s decision lest the berserk hysterics trash his reputation.

The explosion on social media when Sutton sin binned the Roosters prop Dylan Napa in the 75th minute of the match against the Broncos measured 7.2 on the Richter Scale.

The epicenter was found to be Bondi Junction, with the force being so big that many tin foil hats were dislodged.

Gorden Tallis went berserk. The Channel Nine commentary team called it ludicrous and went off like cut snakes. And Roosters fans went off their chops.

How could Gerard Sutton have possibly even have penalised Napa for an accidental head clash, let alone put him on report? But to sin bin him as well?

Outrageous! It’s a fix! A conspiracy!

What a load of steaming rubbish.

The incident proved one thing for mine: Gerard Sutton is a superb referee. He absolutely nailed the handling of the incident.

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These are the undisputed facts:
1. Napa clearly lined up Korbin Sims with the intention of putting a very big hit on him.
2. In doing so his head made severe contact to the head of Sims, taking The Gerringong lad out of the game.

The replays showed that Napa had his arms well out from his sides and that his head was well in front of his body and arms, but facing down and not looking at his target.

As we know from previous examples – like Richard Villasante’s hit on Brad Fittler in the 2002 Grand final, or the James Graham hit on Sam Burgess in the 2013 Grand Final – it is virtually impossible to prove that a head clash was intentional.

However, that doesn’t mean they can’t be deemed reckless or careless actions that hit a player high and that had a great Impact.

And that is exactly how Gerard Sutton, with advice from video referee Ash Klein, saw it.

He put the incident on report and, as made clear is an option in the NRL’s player misconduct rules, sin binned Napa.

I’ve sung Gerard Sutton’s courage to unblinkingly wield his authority in high pressure situations before. This is yet another example of why he is one of the NRL’s best officials.

His decision was completely understandable and reasonable.

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While all the usual suspects in the media were screaming that it was a howler, there were many of us who totally agreed with it.

In spite of having the Roosters to win 1-12 to win my three leg margin multi, I was one of them.

That the Match Review Committee has subsequently decided to exonerate Napa does not mean that Sutton got it wrong either. He has a process to follow and an obligation to officiate the game as he sees it.

The MRC members – whomever they might be – make their decisions away from the heat of the contest, with lots of time for multiple replays.

That Sutton has the courage to make such calls in spite of all of the muck that could be – and subsequently has been – heaped on him speaks volumes for his high suitability for the role.

Further, as I pointed out in the wake of the Round 7 clash between the Rabbitohs and the Raiders, it is great that the refs are using the sin bin again, but we can’t allow an in-game situation where professional fouls are treated more harshly than careless or reckless incidents that injure players.

The referees have got that memo and Sutton’s binning of Napa recognised that logic.

But the bottom line of the incident is this: Napa was at least careless in his attempt to tackle and a severe head clash resulted, removing that player from the contest. A view supported by the more rational people in the Rugby League media.

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Sutton was more than entitled to penalise the incident, place it on report and sin bin the big Rooster.

And the Roosters fans putting the loss down to that incident need to again heed Fox Sports Warren Smith.

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Good on ya Gerard. You nailed it.