Over the past couple of days I have found myself screaming at the television, “He slipped, he bloody slipped!”.
Is it a case that my eyes are stained so green I can’t see the reasoning behind the furore of this now infamous Iosia Soliola tackle?
Let me preface the following piece by fully disclosing I’m a Raiders supporter. I fell in love with rugby league at Bruce Stadium. Although these days I would like to perceive myself as a level headed fan of the game, I am aware at times I lean towards the green.
With that all said, I – as well as the majority of Raiders supporters I have spoken to – believe Soliola has been the victim of trial by media.
After a marathon hearing of over two hours the powers that be have deemed the incident worth a five-week holiday. This will allow Sia to play the final game of the season against – as fate would have it – the Melbourne Storm.
Soliola’s defence led by Nick Ghabar (made famous for getting Jack Wighton off the hook in the lead up to the 2016 finals) requested a penalty of 3 weeks after pleading guilty to the charge.
The NRL’s representatives requested 6 weeks. As if taken inspiration from King Solomon himself, the judiciary deemed to split the decision through the middle.
Fair punishment or not, it’s worth looking into the events from roughly 7pm on Saturday to just before the hearing.
Like many stories in rugby league, this one began with a Ricky Stuart spray.
While it may be just a coincidence, Tony Archer’s decision to speak so scathingly on the hit surely had to come as a result of coach Ricky Stuart’s post match rant about the accountability of the referee’s.
Tony Archer’s comments – fair or not – started a cascade of comments from both traditional and social media.
The top comment on a YouTube video from Luv Rugby League reads “mud tackle by a piece of mud”.
On Tuesday two of the six featured rugby league stories on the Sydney Morning Herald website were regarding the hit. The Daily Telegraph were running three stories.
Melbourne superstar Cooper Cronk wasn’t immune to the cacophony of opinion when he fronted the media on Tuesday, deeming the tackle should have resulted in a send off.
Bernard Sutton has been demoted from his position of senior bunker review official for not instructing on field referee Matt Cecchin to send of Soliola.
The travelling circus even found time to stop off in AFL land where panellist Craig Hutchison and Essendon player Matthew Lloyd found time to critique the incident on Channel 9’s Footy Classified.
The Daily Telegraph’s Paul Kent has even gone as far to stipulate that the lack of decision is demonstrative of the games so called struggle for identity.
A bit much? I seem to think so.
All this before Soliola had his day in court.
Every code around the world deals with these ‘line in the sand’ moments. A moment where a particular act grips the wider community in such a way an unprecedented penalty seems to be the only way to silence an outraged fan base.
Comparisons – particularly from the Canberra side – have been made between this hit and Marty Taupau’s hit on Jack Bird last year. While the acts were almost identical in nature, Taupau’s hit only saw him miss the one game.
This Soliola hit has gripped the rugby league community, unlike anything in recent years. Raiders fans scream that Slater had slipped, others are baying for the blood of Soliola.
Admittedly the hit wasn’t a great look. In the modern world where we are aware of the damage a knock to the head can do, to remove these situations from the game is in the sports best interests.
Yet spare a thought for poor old Sia Soliola who has to become the martyr for this kind of behaviour.
The behaviour shown by Marty Taupau and countless before him for lesser punishment.
Soliola was rightfully or wrongfully slaughtered by the media before he could have his fair reply, and as a result, we now have Soliola the martyr, patron saint of the late and high hit.