NRL referees have been reminded they can sin-bin defenders who hit playmakers late, with the league admitting Brisbane’s Tevita Pangai Jnr should have spent time off the field for his shot on Cooper Cronk.
Pangai Jnr was banned for two weeks over his ugly late shot on the Sydney Roosters playmaker, but was on Thursday night allowed to play on after levelling the star halfback.
The NRL is desperate to get rid of the ugly act from the game, which has drawn criticism from former champion halfbacks Andrew Johns and Johnathan Thurston over the risk of serious injuries to smaller players.
And on Monday the game’s head of football Graham Annesley said that Pangai Jnr should have been binned, and that players had to be aware of the risk of punishment if they mistime hits on playmakers.
“In my view yes (he should have been binned) and the referees have the ability to do that,” Annesley said.
“They have been reminded again today that they have that in their armoury.
“Players take a very serious risk when they get this wrong. Not only are they liable to be penalised, but they achieve very little in doing so.
“(The defender) risks a stint in the sin-bin, he risks a charge by the match review committee, and if found guilty he risks a significant amount of time out of the game.”
However Annesley ruled out taking immediate steps to increase demerit points for those dangerous contact charges in order to further deter the offence.
Pangai only missed two games due to carryover points and weighting from previous offences, meaning he could have copped just a one-game ban if he was a cleanskin.
He is the first player to be charged with a late hit this season after an opponent has passed the ball.
There were 11 such incidents in the 2018 season.
However three players have also been charged with attacking the playmakers when kicking this season.
And Annesley said that while any judicial review would likely have to be considered at the end of the season if deemed necessary, the match review committee could meter out higher gradings if they felt a stronger deterrent was needed.
“The gradings are prescribed in the judiciary code, but this allows the match review committee to look at all factors, which includes the prevalence of the alleged offence,” Annesley said.
“They need to consider that when they prescribe gradings.
“If we believe the deterrent factor (from demerit points) isn’t sufficient, then we do have other leavers we can pull.”
Meanwhile the NRL also admitted a Viliame Kikau try for Penrith against the Wests Tigers should have been sent to the bunker and awarded on Friday night, after it was denied on-field despite the ball appearing to touch the line.