Last Saturday night in Newcastle, Mitchell Pearce found himself friendless in no-man’s land.
The ultimate lose-lose location where given the option, he would have gladly accepted a jumper-load of bruised ribs with a battered thumbs-up.
With 13 minutes on the clock, a Mitch Barnett try had the Knights within eight points of underdogs Manly, and poised atop a tidal wave of frenzied Novocastrian support.
Reuben Garrick had gone long off the tee all night, but this time traded length for height. Peace saw it for what it was off the boot – time to pack the tent with no time to exit.
Addin Fonua-Blake lumbered in pursuit but stirred with vision of a forlorn Pearce in the brace position. As the wrecking ball swung into to action, an anxious Broadmeadow held its collective breath.
Thankfully, the ball won the race. And while the anticipated carnage was avoided, once again instinct arrived late, this time in the form of Fonua-Blake’s careless right arm.
A splitting headache ended the prized halfback’s night, while Fonua-Blake was spelled for ten minutes to repent his sins.
If anything, it was fair play to the referees, an extra man advantage for a subbed linchpin is a reasonable trade.
Post-match, Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler said the sin-bin was punishment enough, but the match review committee saw otherwise, handing the wayward front-man a grade one careless high-tackle charge.
Manly will fight the charge and potential two-match ban. Having already been suspended once this season, another week or two could be a blessing for the Sea Eagles if it forces Fonua-Blake to realign his tack.
After all, time on the sideline is as much about punishment as it is about grasping the benefits of fair play.
Which leads me to the event in Townsville that overshadowed the Storm’s 18-12 victory over North Queensland.
As Cameron Munster rose to play the ball, Josh McGuire attacked his eye-socket like a hungry monkey trying to crack a cookie jar.
Only in this case the monkey didn’t get caught.
Munster refused to make an official complaint, but post-match lifted the lid when he told the Nine Network “He did get me, but I wasn’t going to put it on report.”
In their wisdom, the match review committee ignored the vision and Munster’s post-match account before deciding there was no case to answer.
But they also sensed McGuire was up to no good, so fined him $1500 – but then remembered he’d been up to no-good not so long ago, so increased the amount to $3500.
George Burgess copped four weeks for a similar incident last year, in a Test against New Zealand. Yet despite being caught on camera with his hand in the jar, McGuire will be free to line-up for the Cowboys this weekend in Auckland.
The former Bronco continues to dodge bullets. Maybe he needs the likes of Les Boyd to relay how the game often finds a way to get square. Let’s just hope it’s not to the detriment of one of his opponents.
And whatever the outcome of Fonua-Blake’s appeal, this week will still be remembered as an unnecessary stick in the eye for rugby league justice.