PULL YA HEAD IN
Annesley blasts ‘disturbing’ number of high-shot offences
GRAHAM Annesley has defended the NRL’s match review committee and judiciary panel while delivering a scathing rebuke to players and coaches over “disturbing” suspension figures for head and neck incidents this season.
Annesley, the NRL’s head of football, warned players to “reset attitudes” or lengthy bans for head and neck contact would continue this season.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Victor Radley, Jordan Pereira, and Josh Curran have been sin-binned for high shots, while Canterbury’s Jack Hetherington was sent off.
“Disturbingly, there has been a significant increase of charges and players being suspended for incidents that involve head and neck,” Annesley said.
“I know this will horrify people and say ‘the game is going soft’, ‘they’re love taps’ and ‘it didn’t do any damage’ … just think about how many of our great players have had to retire prematurely because of head-related injuries. It can’t continue.”
In a 60-minute round seven briefing Annesley also addressed directives to referees in sending off players and an openness to exploring rewarding players who make tackles on the lower body.
In the first seven rounds of the season, players have notched up 37 weeks of suspensions for head/neck contact from 27 charges compared to 43 weeks from 53 charges over the course of the entire 2020 season.
Seven of the eight players cited in round seven have been charged with an incident related to the head or neck.
St George Illawarra winger Pereira is facing up to five weeks on the sideline after he was sin-binned for an ugly hit of Roosters fullback James Tedesco, who didn’t finish Sunday’s Anzac Day match as a result of the high shot.
Cronulla’s Siosifa Talakai has also accepted a four-match ban for a shoulder charge on Canterbury’s Matt Doorey.
While fans and commentators overwhelmingly agreed Pereira should have been marched for the hit, Annesley said there would not be a directive, either way, handed to match officials to send players off for foul play, despite the “concerning” increase in incidents of illegal behaviour.
Annesley also insisted it was the responsibility of players to stop playing “with reckless abandon”.
Canterbury’s Jack Hetherington, who was sent off in round six, is the only player to be marched this season.
“We’ve given no instruction to referees they are not to send players off,” Annesley said.
“We have seen dismissals this year. If a player deserves to be sent off, he should be sent off. Again, it’s a judgment call and they [referees] make it very quickly.”
Annesley also dedicated 30 minutes of yesterday’s briefing to defending the match review committee and judiciary process after calls to overhaul the system and accusations of inconsistencies following South Sydney fullback Latrell Mitchell’s four-match ban and Penrith centre Paul Momirovski’s three-match ban last week for dangerous head/neck tackles.
After profiling the four MRC members, the five judiciary members and judiciary chairman Geoffrey Bellew, Annesley said: “There have been comments made over the course of the last few days which we think are unfair, they don’t accurately represent the judicial system in the NRL.
“We think it’s not befitting of the status due to who are involved in the process.
“The independence of the process was questioned, we have a responsibility to protect their integrity, and their independence can’t be questioned.”
While both Mitchell and Momirovski failed to have charges downgraded at the judiciary last week, Annesley revealed that of the 68 cases to front the judiciary since 2017, 40 per cent have had charges dropped or downgraded.
Earlier yesterday, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo also came out in support of the judiciary.
“Just as the court system issues harsher penalties to citizens with prior offences, our judiciary system also issues harsher penalties to players with prior offences … this acts as a deterrent to foul play … [and keeps] players safe,” Abdo said.