Canberra coach Ricky Stuart believes the NRL has now set the standard for any future send-offs this year after he watched his star prop Josh Papalii marched from Suncorp Stadium for a head-high tackle.
Despite the drama the Raiders snapped a five-match losing streak to come from behind with a 20-18 victory.
Referee Chris Butler pointed Papalii to the sheds for making "forceful contact to the head" of Bulldogs winger Tuipulotu Katoa in the 61st minute, which reduced the Raiders to 11 men briefly because Jack Wighton was already in the sin bin.
Stuart said Papalii definitely hit Katoa high, although he felt the Bulldogs player was falling in the tackle.
"There are going to be a whole heap of send-offs this year if that’s a send-off incident. I just hope they don’t change now," Stuart said of the NRL's edict to stamp out contact with the neck and head.
"If that’s going to be the precedent, we’re going to find a completely different game of rugby league than we’ve been following for many, many years.
“It’s sad we’re talking about it… we’re giving other sports a leg-up. We’ve got a wonderful weekend of rugby league and we want to promote our game but unfortunately we’re talking about the wrong things."
Match: Bulldogs v Raiders
Round 10 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Stuart said Wighton's cannon ball-style of tackle on back-rower Adam Elliott was above the knees and he wanted his five-eighth to complete the three-man tackle like that.
"It was very unfortunate how the player ended up. I know we’ve got to play to our mums and our dads… I want to promote the game to parents," Stuart said.
"But we’ve got a game that’s quite unique and we’ve got a game that’s not for everyone, it’s as simple as that.
"It’s a tough, brutal, contact sport. And if we want to take that away, let us know and I’ll start recruiting different types of players.
"With Josh’s incident and Jack getting 10 minutes for that… the game has changed."
Stuart said he was willing to share his thoughts with NRL powerbrokers.
Despite the aftermath, Canberra overcame a lot of adversity on the field to score two tries while down to 12 men to snatch the two-point victory. The difference was a George Williams penalty goal.
Stuart wants consistency with new rules moving forward
"It’s unfortunate that I'm in here answering these questions when I’d love to be talking about the courage and the spirit and the fight we had to win," Stuart said.
"We were down and it just shows – and I’ve said it for a number of weeks – our joint is not broken. It’s a wonderful club – we’ve just been losing football games when we haven't had any luck. We had no luck here again today.
"But fortunately through their culture and the spirit of the jumper and the player inside it, we hung on.
"I got quite excited with the energy showed when adversity hit us. We were down to 11 straight away and the players turned. We were a completely different football team when we went to 11 men."
The Dogs made the most of Wighton's absence, grabbing an unlikely 12-8 lead when impressive pivot Brandon Wakeham dummied then sent winger Nick Meaney over in the 57th minute - Canterbury's second four-pointer in eight minutes.
Raiders get two quickly, this time through Kris
Alarm bells were no doubt ringing for fans of the Raiders who had a nasty habit of suffering fade-outs in 2021 after being outscored 93-8 in their past five second halves.
But instead of capitulating the Raiders dug deep to ice the result with Curtis Scott (68th minute) and Sebastian Kris (70th) crashing over to break the Bulldogs' hearts.
Dogs No.1 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak scored with 31 seconds remaining to ensure some anxious moments for Canberra before they officially moved to a 4-6 record.
There are still some concerns for Stuart and in turn, the Maroons. If Queensland forward Papalli is charged with higher than a grade two offence, he will be ineligible for the State of Origin opener.
Overall four players were placed on report in the NRL Magic Round's third game.
Besides Papalii and Wighton, Josh Hodgson - back from a calf injury - was booked for a suspected chicken wing on Luke Thompson in the 62nd minute while Canterbury's Ava Seumanufagai was booked for a high shot in the 67th minute.
Hodgson didn't feature in the first half after being relegated to the bench upon his return due to starting hooker Tom Starling's form.
He finally emerged in the 46th minute when he came on as a HIA substitute for Corey Horsburgh despite the Raiders forward initially appearing to have injured his ribs.
Papalii sent off for high contact on Tuipulotu Katoa
The Bulldogs cut the deficit to 8-6 in the 49th minute when winger Nick Cotric barged over from dummy half after captain Will Hopoate's bust.
The bunker gave Cotric the green light after he planted the ball on the line before it came free, avoiding Raiders captain Elliott Whitehead's sliding white boots.
However, the gutsy Dogs couldn't secure their second win of 2021 as they slumped to their eight straight defeat at Suncorp Stadium.