There are quite a few different views on the Jared Waerea-Hargreaves dismissal on Monday night.
I have a pretty dim view of head contact generally, but given what we have seen this year already, the incident clearly did not warrant a send-off (though it certainly deserved to be on report with a subsequent suspension).
Consider the fact that we have had ugly spear tackles without send-off, including a double by the same man on the same ball runner, no less than the holy grail of rugby league himself, Greg Inglis.
In that particular game we also saw a wild swinging arm that sent the biggest player on the field into orbit. The ludicrous excuse was that the initial contact was the ball, before slipping up into the head (make your mind up if that’s a fairly reliable way of hitting somebody in the melon or not – try it, it’s easy!).
And what can we make of players punching each other in the head, such as in the Eels-Broncos match? If a fist to the head doesn’t constitute ‘head contact’, then what does, exactly?
Referee inconsistency, lack of knowledge of the most basic rules and general ineptitude have featured enough on this blog without diving into that pink cesspit again, but what happened on Monday was always going to happen.
Harking back to the April 2 Rubdown:
“Referees don’t understand the Send Off and Sin Bin rules (or the offside at the kick-off rule for that matter). Not a lot more needs to be said, other than predicting that some poor sod is going to get marched in upcoming weeks for something far less than what Krisnan Inu did to Greg Inglis.”
Et voila! Off goes JWH, even despite the suggestion of initial contact on the shoulder before slipping up ‘Matai-style’ and a subsequent grading of 1!
Dean Ritchie quoted Steve Roach on this very subject in today’s Telegraph:
“Five weeks for that?” Roach roared. “Inglis has been dropped on his head three times (by Richie Fa’aoso, twice, and Krisnan Inu) and nothing happened. It was like they had to send someone off. Waerea-Hargreaves is paying for something the refs didn’t do earlier this year.”
The NRL and referees need to be a little (read: a lot) clearer about their decisions.
If they decide to randomly choose a week to get tough on head contact (a decision I applaud as a hard and fast rule, and which the NRL have already got wrong in relation to the shoulder charge), then make sure everybody knows. It is patently absurd to dismiss a player for a lesser offence than which has occurred on multiple occasions this year.
It was but a couple of days after the quote above that it became fairly obvious Josh Dugan was about to become Josh Dragon. Well he has finally signed now and is about to play this weekend.
But should he?
Recall that he was dismissed for consistent and flagrant breaches of club policy, to the point of (seemingly) engineering his way out by giving the Raiders no choice but to remove him. This is not the selfless work of a role model to younger players, kids and fans, or of one deserving the riches of his contract.
But that’s not why I think he should be made to sit the year out.
The point is that the Raiders were compelled to veer off course in order to remove a toxic element within the club, which is clearly sub-optimal from a business point of view and generally avoided.
The club had gone through their player retention policy (of which Dugan was part), made their choices about the year’s roster, and signed off on the salary cap at the same time.
And that’s the important point. The Raiders have been dudded, while the Dragons have benefited by securing a very talented footballer playing for next year’s contract.
Anyone listening to the very public conversation relating to the NSW Origin team, and the complex set of permutations surrounding it, knows that putting a team together isn’t merely an act of putting 17 players on a paddock.
In the NSW example it extends (like every year it seems) to who will fill in for an injured player, are they on the correct side of the field, are they a goal kicker, and if not, then maybe we have to select someone else … but they play better with so-and-so … and so on, ad nauseum.
The Raiders have clearly lost out in this regard. But at the same time, they have benefited from that indefinable, yet binding quality of team harmony.
Maybe it was all worth it?
Still, Josh shouldn’t be playing.