SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 21: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves of the Roosters is sent to the sin bin by referee Gerard Sutton during the round 11 NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the Penrith Panthers at Sydney Cricket Ground, on May 21, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Every week now we have a new debate about either the Match Review Committee or the judicial system in the NRL, whether a punishment is too soft or too hard, and suddenly the word 'comparison' is the dirtiest word in the NRL.

As fans, especially when a player on your team is charged, the knee jerk response is to compare it to another incident.

'Well player X got three weeks, player Y should get five.'

However, despite the inconsistencies it creates, comparisons aren't the obstacle creating havoc when it comes to judicial charges - injuries are.

There is still a quiet, lingering argument between fans on social media, some claiming that if you injure a player via an illegal tackle, you should be sidelined for the same time period as the injured player. it has to be one of the more thoughtless concepts running through rugby league.

Since when did 'an eye for an eye' become the new NRL motto?

The issue with it is that these incidences aren't being judged by the tackles themselves, they're judged by the outcome. The MRC is influenced by public reaction, by social media, just look at the Latrell Mitchell incident last season.

Certainly a reckless tackle that he deserved to be banned for, but by the time it came to deciding whether to fight the grading or take the early guilty plea, the media influence over it all left the fullback no choice.

Now re-examine the tackle, and think to yourself, had Joey Manu bounced up from that tackle injury-free, would Mitchell still receive a six-week ban? Would he still be labelled a thug and plastered over the newspaper back pages for weeks on end?

The short answer is no.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 27: Referee Ashley Klein speaks with Joseph Manu of the Roosters after receiving a high tackle from Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs during the round 24 NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on August 27, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

There could be two perfectly identical cannonball tackles in this weekend's games. One could result in an ACL tear, the other resulting in no injury whatsoever, and the two tackles would be graded differently.

Had Dylan Brown suffered serious back or neck injuries following the Nathan Cleary spear tackle, do you think Nathan would have only received five weeks?

These knee jerk reactions are influencing the game way too much and could see the aftereffects ripple through this finals series.

If two people stood side by side and each threw a rock over their shoulder at the same time, one hitting the grass and the other hitting an innocent bystander, why should the two individuals be treated differently for their reactions?

It just gives another excuse for that dirty word to rear its head again, and suddenly we're judging these incidences off the outcome, and not by incident themselves - which is what the charges are for.

It's time the MRC starts calling a spade a spade and start preventing the outside noise from influencing their decision.

There will always be a portion of the public that will criticise the MRC, even if they're done nothing wrong. So if you going to cop it regardless, at least cop it for making the right decision.



  1. As with many criticisms of match officials, the problem comes down to consistency, or the lack thereof.

    I have no problems with the NRL saying “from now on, if you are convicted of a spear tackle you will get X weeks, if convicted of a cannonball tackle it will be Y weeks. These penalties will be the same for everyone regardless of severity of injury to the tackled player”.

    Equally, I have no problems with the NRL saying “from now on, if you are convicted of a spear tackle you will get a minimum of X weeks, if convicted of a cannonball tackle it will be a minimum of Y weeks”. To these penalties will be ADDED the number of weeks that the tackled player is out of the game for injuries suffered in the tackle. This because the tackler is risking severe damage to the tackled player”.

    I don’t mind. I would be happy with either as long as it is clear and applied CONSISTENTLY.

    What exasperates fans is that sometimes – like Latrell’s hit on Joey Manu – the NRL appears to take into account the severity of the injury, and in other cases – similar hits to Latrell’s – the offender is not penalised as severely because the visible damage to the tackled player is negligible.

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