NRL head of football Graham Annesley would have been “comfortable” if Parramatta forward Nathan Brown and South Sydney centre James Roberts had been sent off for foul play during last weekend’s round of matches.
Brown was sin-binned for a shoulder charge on Canterbury fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in Thursday night’s 12-6 loss at Bankwest Stadium and Roberts suffered the same fate after dropping his elbow on the head of Brisbane winger Corey Oates in Friday night’s 22-20 win at Suncorp Stadium.
With both players now suspended until the opening week of the finals after accepting two match bans for charges imposed by the match review committee, there have been suggestions that Brown and Roberts should have been sent off.
“I would have been comfortable had that taken place,” Annesley said of Brown.
“These things are matters of opinion and officials have to make the decision very quickly based on the information that they have and the assistance they get from the bunker, but I would have been comfortable had that happened.”
Annesley also would have supported the match officials in the Bulldogs-Eels game if they had decided to send off Roberts.
Graham Annesley weekly football briefing - Round 23
“Whilst I can understand that they took the action that they took, the degree of force was unnecessary,” Annesley said.
“They were obviously quite different incidents but I will back the referees for taking action to protect player safety.
“They have to determine what the appropriate level of action is and in both cases they determined that. Were they wrong? No they weren’t, but would they have been wrong if they went harder? They wouldn’t have been wrong either.”
“They have to make the decision, that is the job they have got. I think they have been dealing with that reasonably consistently recently. Clearly, if the player needs to be dismissed he will be dismissed but they have to make that decision, no one can make it for them.”
There were eight players charged with incidents from Round 23 matches, including Rabbitohs forward Jaydn Su’a, who received two charges for his tackle on former Broncos team-mate Alex Glenn.
Brown (shoulder charge) and Roberts (dangerous contact head/neck) were considered the most serious offences and received grade two charges, while Bulldogs winger Reimis Smith (striking) will serve a one-match ban for headbutting his Eels opposite Maika Sivo.
Smith was also sin-binned but Annesley said referees were still prepared to send players off if they believed an incident warranted tougher action.
“Our process provides for action to be taken on the field and then it provides for action to be taken off the field through the match review and judiciary process,” Annnesley said.
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“There are many, many incidents in our game where some people would feel that stronger action should be taken and other people may feel that the action that was taken was too strong.
“Each case is different and there will be some incidents where, when you look at them, you think the player could have been dismissed from the field.
“The game is as hard as it’s ever been. It’s probably as clean as it’s ever been, I don’t think we see very many deliberate acts at all.
“Where we do the match review committee and judiciary have to look at levels of force and the seriousness of the incident, they have to look at the prevalence of that particular type of incident and whether they need to come down heavily because of the deterrent factor.”
Among the players charged was Canberra centre Joey Leilua, who also faces the rest of the regular season on the sideline for a dropping knees charge which resulted in an eight-point try being awarded to Manly in Sunday’s 22-18 loss.
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Annesley conceded that the 98-metre try should not have been awarded as Sea Eagles forward Jack Gosiewski was “marginally” offside before intercepting a pass on his own line and passing to Garrick but he said Leilua would have still faced disciplinary action if he dropped his knees.
He also showed footage to rebuff screen shots posted on social media to suggest Gosiewski was clearly off-side.
"There are split seconds in all of this and it's marginal but if it's wrong, it's wrong,” Annesley said
"I am prepared to concede he is offside but not to the extent it's been portrayed on social media.
"The next question is why wasn't this referred to the video referee when the try was scored?" The answer to that is the video referee has not at any point in the time we've been using it been called upon to rule whether players are on or offside in defence.
"That has been left entirely in the hands of the match officials. If we try to introduce the bunker into that element, it has trouble written all over it."