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NRL News: Annesley slams call to clear May for Walsh tackle, Gallen calls for calm on Souths

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25th March, 2024
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Taylan May should have been charged for the tackle that has sidelined Brisbane fullback Reece Walsh with a facial fracture, NRL football boss Graham Annesley says.

In the opening minutes of Penrith’s 34-12 win on Thursday, May ran out of the defensive line and hit Walsh just after the Broncos No.1 passed the ball, with the pair clashing heads.

Walsh fell to the turf bleeding from his face and, despite passing his head injury assessment, was unable to continue playing.

Broncos coach Kevin Walters was incensed that the NRL’s match review committee (MRC) opted not to charge May for the hit, with Walsh expected to miss at least a month injured.

The hit drew comparisons to a clash from the 2022 season, when Cronulla forward Dale Finucane clashed heads with ball-runner Stephen Crichton and received a two-game ban.

MRC chairman Luke Patten on Friday defended the decision not to charge May.

Annesley said the NRL’s view differed, with the organisation less concerned about the contact made by May and more with the level of risk associated with the shot.


The NRL wrote to clubs in April last year warning that players jamming in and running out of the defensive line risked being charged should their hits go wrong.

“There is an obligation on all defenders to ensure that they play the game with due regard to the safety of other players,” Annesley said.

“This particular type of action of coming up and in at speed will often go wrong.

“It doesn’t really matter whether it’s shoulder to head, whether it’s arm to head or whether it’s head to head – it’s the way a player approaches the tackle, rather than the outcome.

“No one’s trying to hurt anybody, but they’re taking an additional level of risk by coming in at high velocity. Often the contact happens after the ball is passed.

“On that basis, we believe it should have resulted in a charge.”

Annesley stopped short of recommending a grading for the charge and said he would not have been displeased had referee Gerard Sutton sent May to the sin bin.


“We haven’t specifically turned our mind to (the possible grading of the charge) because that is the role of the match review committee,” he said.

“We were satisfied that there was action on the field. If that action had taken an extra step, we would’ve been satisfied with that as well.”

Annesley stood by the controversial obstruction call that denied Manly a potential try during Sunday’s 28-24 loss to Parramatta, saying the Sea Eagles’ Jake Trbojevic had obstructed defender Luca Moretti.

Trbojevic stopped in the defensive line, opening a gap for his brother Tom to break away and set up Tolu Koula for a try.

Annesley rejected suggestions Moretti had made insufficient attempt to bypass the lead runner and make a tackle.

“The Parramatta player had no option to avoid the contact because Jake had stopped right in his path,” he said.


Reece Walsh (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Reece Walsh (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Gallen calls for calm on Souths

NRL legend Paul Gallen has declared that the criticism of South Sydney is a little over the top despite their 0-3 start to the year, preferring to focus on the teams that they have played.

“I get the interest around South Sydney and the pressure that comes with being the glamour club of the NRL,” he wrote in his WWOS column.

“But in all honesty I reckon critics are hitting the panic button a little too early on the Bunnies. In reality they have lost three games to teams that I think should be around the top four this year – Manly, Brisbane, and the Roosters.”

He also nixed ideas that Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker were given special treatment, declaring that such things happened at every club.

“The concerning thing at the moment is the rumours that Sam Burgess brought to light last year haven’t been put to bed yet,” wrote Gallen.


“Claims that Walker and Latrell were getting preferential treatment from the coach still seem to be hanging over the team, and probably won’t leave until they start winning.

“I thought the story was a bit ridiculous when it first came out – trust me, senior players at every club are afforded a bit more leeway than others.

“As long as you’ve done the fitness work, you might ask the coach if you can start the weights session half an hour early so you can finish early and take your kids to an appointment.

“It’s not about cutting corners but it does happen, and there’s no issue with it as long as the players and the team are performing well.

“Cody is adamant they have put all the hard work in over the off-season, and I think we’re going to find out if that’s true in the next few weeks.”

That said, he added that the team appeared to be playing individually, not collectively, and that that aspect needed to change.

“Yes, I understand the loss on Friday night was concerning and obviously there are issues with the team at the moment,” wrote the Sharkies legend.


“But I’m certainly not going to write them off after three games, and they still have talent all across the park so there’s plenty of time to turn things around.

“My take on the situation is they are playing as individuals at the moment, not as a team.

“It’s tricky, because all of their stats individually are probably fine – they might be hitting their markers requested by the coaching staff and I’m sure they all think they are performing well individually.

“But the stats the crowd doesn’t see are the ones that can really matter.

“It’s things like pushing up in support of a teammate, getting players to the kick chase to put pressure on the opposition, or putting pressure on their kicker.

“They won’t be seen on any stat sheet but they are what the Bunnies seem to be missing at the moment and it’s making a big difference.”

Panthers set to be named first Vegas participants for 2025


The NRL are set to meet this week to discuss the line-up for next year’s Vegas extravaganza – and one of the competition’s heavyweights has already been picked.

The threepeat Penrith Panthers are top of the list, according to reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, with the club looking to take advantage of being forced out of their stadium by shifting one of their home games to the United States.

Penrith Stadium will be under reconstruction for all of 2025, with the Panthers likely to groundshare with Parramatta for the season, which gives them more incentive to take their fixtures elsewhere – with Vegas the obvious destination.

The NRL will meet on Wednesday to decide on the other three participants. Both Manly and the Roosters are bidding to go back, though it is thought that the preference would be for four entirely new teams.

Melbourne are also among the favourites, while Newcastle, Canberra, North Queensland and the Warriors have all thrown their hat into the ring.

A minor hiccup could be if Penrith make it four in a row by winning the Grand Final, as they would then be able to compete for another World Club Challenge against the Super League champions.


Penrith have made a point of attempting to secure the world crown, the only title they have never won, but have gone down to St Helens at home and Wigan away in consecutive years. Covid ruled out any chance they had in 2022, after their first Premiership.

Wigan pushed to take the match to Vegas last year but it was too late to pull the logistics together, but with further notice, it may be possible.

The NRL has looked into putting an NRLW game in as the first match of a triple-header, and the earliest timeslot available in Vegas would be the most amenable for audiences in both Australia and the UK should they choose to play the World Club Challenge then.

The league is also aware that a huge contingent of UK fans would likely attend in Vegas should a Super League side be included.

(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

NAS set for longer reggies stint


Craig Bellamy has warned Nelson Asofa-Solomona may need more time in reserve grade before he can return from injury to Melbourne’s NRL side.

Barnstorming prop Asofa-Solomona has missed the opening three rounds of the NRL season after suffering a hamstring injury over the summer.

The hulking Kiwi international returned to training this month and made his return to the field for the Storm’s NSW Cup feeder side North Sydney in their 50-24 loss to Newcastle on Sunday.

Asofa-Solomona played restricted minutes in the middle of the park and later watched on as the first-grade side lost 14-12 to the Knights.

The Storm have the bye in round four but there’s no guarantee Asofa-Solomona will return to face Brisbane at NRL level the following week.

Bellamy was also unsure if five-eighth Cameron Munster could return from a groin injury for his first game of the season but thought Joe Chan may bounce back from a hand infection.

“We’ve got a bye next week so I’m not quite sure where everybody is at the moment,” the coach said.


“(Asofa-Solomona) has been out for a while, he hasn’t done a lot of training so he might need a little bit more time. 

“He aggravated it (his hamstring injury) a couple of times too. He’s missed a lot of training. He had two full weeks (of training) before today but he’s still pretty much underdone.

“We’ll just see how it progresses from here.

“But hopefully we’ve got Joey Chan back for the next game too.”

Bellamy’s prediction that Asofa-Solmona could remain in reserve grade comes following reports rival clubs were ready to pounce on the prop should he fall down the pecking order at the Storm.

Currently, Asofa-Solomona is contracted at Melbourne until the end of the 2027 season.

Bellamy played Asofa-Solomona on an edge at times last season but planned to use him in the middle once he returned.


Former Wests Tigers second-rower Shawn Blore impressed Bellamy making his club debut on the left edge in the loss to the Knights.

“If I had to answer that today, I’d say (Asofa-Solomona) is a middle,” Bellamy said.

“At the end of the day I thought Shawn did a really good job today … obviously Eli (Katoa) has made the right side his own.”

Storm captain Harry Grant is content to remain patient for Asofa-Solomona’s comeback if required, though admitting it would be “big” if he returned to face Brisbane.

“He might need a bit of time or whatever so we can’t really look too far ahead. We’ll just take our learnings from tonight and look forward to the Broncs and who we’ve got in the team then,” Grant said.