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Opinion

Joey’s right, 'it's laughable' repeat offender Asofa-Solomona didn't get lengthy ban for cheap shot

31st July, 2022
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31st July, 2022
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Nelson Asofa-Solomona is the most physically imposing player in the NRL and he seems to have the match review committee afraid of him as well.

The towering Storm prop has yet again escaped punishment for an incident which Immortal halfback Andrew Johns thought should have resulted in a lengthy suspension. Four months was his estimate.

He aims his forearm to the head of Wayde Egan as the Warriors hooker is tackled to the ground and connects with such force that a couple of teeth are knocked out.

But when the match review committee announced the findings the day after the win over the Warriors, not only was Asofa-Solomona not facing a ban, he wasn’t even facing a fine after avoiding being charged. 

This is the same Nelson Asofa-Solomona who was fined $1000 for a careless high tackle in Round 3, who hit Jordan Rapana with a high shot and was slugged $1800 a few weeks ago and then last week copped two more charges from the loss to Souths for dangerous contact and yet another careless high tackle on Cameron Murray, which added up to another two fines, each worth $3000.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 29: Nelson Asofa-Solomona of the Storm runs is tackled by Josh Curran of the Warriors during the round 20 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Melbourne Storm at Mt Smart Stadium, on July 29, 2022, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Nelson Asofa-Solomona. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

He’s been fined $8800 for four incidents this year and clearly thinks he can dish out rough treatment without much of a threat of being suspended. And he’s right based on the farce of avoiding a ban again on the weekend.

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“It’s laughable. I back the players all the time and I don’t apologise for that but for me, that’s four months’ suspension,” Johns said on Nine’s Sunday Footy Show.

“Wayde Egan comes off. It looks like he’s broken his jaw. There was nothing but an intent to hurt him. That’s what it was.

“He had his elbow there and he knows it’s there and then he winds up knowing that the head would hit the ground and it would recoil. He’s going to smash him in the face. Honestly, nothing for that, or a fine.

“It’s a cheap shot.”

The NRL’s official version of events is that it was “incidental contact with Egan’s head/neck after the ground impact”. Egan’s dentist will say otherwise.

“There was clear separation between Nelson Asofa-Solomona’s arm and the head of Wayde Egan as the players went to the ground,” match review committee co-ordinator Luke Patten said.

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“Asofa-Solomona’s arm lands on Egan’s chest on a diagonal and makes incidental contact with his head/neck after the ground impact. As a result, the match review committee cleared the tackle of involving either a head slam or a dangerous contact action.”

To make matters worse, in the same game fellow Storm forward Josh King was put on report for grappling with the face of Jazz Tevaga in an incident which was similar to the one which prompted the match review committee to refer Corey Waddell straight to the judiciary the previous weekend and end up copping a five-game ban.

Yet this time around, King wasn’t charged.

And then we have Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who has a history of foul play, also avoiding suspension for forcefully grinding his forearm into Manly rookie Zac Fulton’s head and throat for a prolonged period after a tackle on Thursday night.

JWH gets a grade-one dangerous contact charge which under the NRL’s new and not improved judiciary system that was rushed in at the start of the season, he gets away with a fine of $3000 and no time on the sidelines.

It’s the third time this year he’s been charged – he’s only appeared in 14 games, by the way. Under the previous system, he’d be copping a suspension but in the 2022 model, players can keep accumulating fines for grade-one offences as long as they continue to plead guilty.

Players will always take whatever latitude is thrown their way. An even more lenient judiciary system was introduced for the State of Origin series where players would only cop fines unless they did something extremely serious, which led to an increase in roughhouse tactics by game three.

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The same system will be in place for the playoffs so expect a few players to sail close to the wind in the finals knowing they are unlikely to be rubbed out the following week.

There is still a deterrent there, in theory, for players to follow the rules, called the sin bin. And another one in which referees can send players off.

But then you see incidents like Asofa-Solomona’s grubby act on Egan result in nothing more than a penalty and getting placed on report (the NRL’s equivalent of being issued a tardy slip from a hall monitor for being late to class).

Nathan Cleary was rightly sent off on Friday night for his spear tackle on Dylan Brown and few could argue with the length of the five-week ban.

Dylan Brown is tackled dangerously by Nathan Cleary. (Photo by Joshua Davis/Getty Images)

It was much of a muchness but Rabbitohs prop Tom Burgess being marched outright for his high hit on Ronaldo Mulitalo was probably a touch heavy handed given he only ended up copping a one-game ban. But given the match was in extra time at that point, it didn’t particularly matter that the referee pointed him to the sheds rather than holding up 10 fingers as he probably would have if it was during the first 80 minutes.

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Brisbane forward Patrick Carrigan should have been marched for his ugly tackle on Jackson Hastings in the 73rd minute of their loss to the Wests Tigers on Saturday night.

There was a break in play while Hastings was helped off and a penalty awarded. Surely the extra sets of eyes in the bunker could have told referee Adam Gee that sterner action was warranted.

The fact that the match review committee has referred Carrigan straight to the judiciary suggests that it was a serious incident. 

You can never have black and white guidelines when it comes to the judiciary process but there’s way too much grey at the moment.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 30: Jackson Hastings of the Tigers is injured during the round 20 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Wests Tigers at Suncorp Stadium, on July 30, 2022, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Jackson Hastings. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

A blatant act like the one perpetrated by Carrigan shouldn’t receive the feather touch by the on-field set of eyes and then get the full force of the law when the match reviewers look at the same incident.

Just like the wildly differing outcomes for the Waddell and King eye gouge incidents, there should not be such a wide variance in outcomes.

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When you compare the Asofa-Solomona and Waerea-Hargreaves forearm thuggery with some of the incidents that have led to bans this season, it’s baffling how they are not also sitting on the sidelines this week and for several more to follow.

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