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Strewth Todd! You’ve got to be suspended for kicking a bloke in the head

Cameron Munster of the Storm looks dejected as he leaves the field after being sent to the sin bin during the 2018 NRL Grand Final match between the Melbourne Storm and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Expert
3rd October, 2018
42
2800 Reads

Somehow the NRL Match Review Committee managed to only charge Cameron Munster with ‘Contrary Conduct’ for kicking Joseph Manu in the head in the dying moments of the NRL grand final.

This week we’ve sadly – but correctly – seen Greg Inglis suspended from the Kangaroo tour for driving under the influence of alcohol. However, instead of being suspended and giving up his spot in the Kangaroos team, Munster will only pay a $1400 fine.

I know that it was hardly a flying boot delivered with full force, but Munster kicked a prone player in the head, in the biggest match of the year, in front of one of the biggest viewing audiences of the year that included multitudes of kids.

Yet the MRC has declared that isn’t worthy of a suspension, effectively declaring that it wasn’t a kick.

That just doesn’t sit well with me at all.

What’s that I hear you say? Why yes, just last week I was openly suggesting that the Storm use any means necessary to ensure that Billy Slater played in the grand final.

So how could I now have issues about Cam Munster not being suspended?

Because, to me, both incidents show that the current system is broken and in need of a full review.

Cameron Munster

Cameron Munster of the Storm (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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I felt that, while Slater had certainly put on a shoulder charge, it wasn’t deserving of a suspension. This was because the base penalty – two weeks – had been set too high. Had the base penalty been one game then – if he had no carry over points – Billy may have been able to play with an early plea. That way the integrity of the system is maintained.

All season we’ve seen last ditch shoulder charge efforts to stop tries – some successful, some not – that had been totally let go. It seemed totally arbitrary that Slater had been charged while others had not.

There was no wriggle room to avoid suspension through a lower grading. And then the integrity of the judiciary was compromised by the way he was let off.

For someone who had actively encouraged breaking the rules just a week ago, I now find myself feeling that there is clearly something wrong with the current system.

This rides on the back of the varying punishments handed out to crusher tackles that I had great difficult telling the difference between but that garnered different punishments.

The entire system for charging offences seems to be badly flawed and it is time that it was subject to a total independent review.

There are some offences that just must be automatic send offs, that are also accompanied with heavy suspensions.

Kicking is one of them. That Munster was only sent for ten minutes in the bin and not sent off was wrong. Kicking is a threshold offence. Feel free to have the referees review it but – if there is evidence of a kick – it must be a send-off and at least a one game suspension.

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That James Roberts was neither binned, sent off or suspended when he kicked a Titan in the 2016 elimination final is another example of this bad offence being let go for no apparent reason.

If shoulder charging is to be rubbed out of the game – and Andrew Ackerman made a compelling argument for that – then all shoulder charges must face sanction, not just those that the referees see on the day. Video reviews of games must concentrate on picking up those that were missed and charging them.

In Round 1 Kevin Proctor attacked the genitalia of Jordan Rapana in a move meant to either slow him down, make him drop the ball, or to lash out with a punch that would get him sin binned.

Rapana did none of those things. He did, however, remonstrate with referees David Munro and Henry Perenara. While they saw fit to give the Raiders a penalty, Proctor was neither sin binned nor sent off.

Later that week Todd Greenberg did send Proctor a letter telling him not to do it again. John Hopoate famously received a heavy suspension and infamy for his attacking of opposition players anuses.

However, attacking an opposition players genitalia – a matter of inches away – is seemingly tolerated as a misdemeanour. That beggars belief. In any other workplace you’d be sacked and up on charges. But not in the NRL it seems.

Any deliberate attack on a players genitalia must be treated as harshly as eye gouging, biting or king hits. It really is a no brainer.

Tripping, once a send off offence, has somehow become a misdemeanour in recent times. In the 1990s Alfie Langer was commonly accused of tripping in his tackling style. These days blatant trips are getting fines and no suspension, let alone send offs. The NRL must clarify their position on tripping and it’s punishment.

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Todd Greenberg

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

These are just an example of the offences for which the gradings and penalties that must be included in a full review. In reality they should all be reviewed for consistency. For integrity.

That review should include not just the offences and the accompanying penalties, but also the role of the match review committee and judiciary – including who sits on them, how they are selected and what qualifications they must have.

By holding this review into the system Todd Greenberg can start to rebuild the confidence of the supporters, players, clubs and media in the system.

Because at the end of the day you’ve got to be suspended for kicking an opponent.