NRL great Gordon Tallis has blasted the decision to award Penrith five-eighth Jarome Luai a penalty after Knights forward Tyson Frizell gabbed his long-hair in a tackle. The Knights were left heartbroken in golden point at a raucous McDonald Jones Stadium after 'ice man' Nathan Cleary's field goal sealed a hard-fought victory for the two-time defending NRL premiers.
However, Penrith were granted a huge momentum shift in the second-half in a highly-controversial moment. The home-side were leading 14-8 midway through the second half when Frizell was penalised after he grabbed Luai's hair from the back as he attempted to break the line.
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While on first glance it looked like a penalty, replays showed Frizell initially grabbed Luai's jersey and his long hair ended up in the handful. On most players, Frizell's tackle would be deemed legal.
However, Luai's long-hair got in the way and helped Penrith march down the field and eventually score two plays later. And after the controversial decision, The Triple M team debated the incident.
NRL reporter James Hooper couldn't believe the tackle resulted in a penalty. “It would have happened only 10 metres from where I was sitting,” Hooper said. "We were all shaking our heads that there’s absolutely no way it was a penalty."
“The only spot he could grab on Jarome’s jersey because Luai had gone past him was the top of the collar." Tallis joined in on the debate and was more critical of the decision and claimed players shouldn't gain an advantage for growing their hair.
“If you pull at the top of his head that’s a hair pull. If his hair goes past his collar, which is his uniform, and you go to grab his jersey that’s play on, that is play on,” a fired-up Tallis said.
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“If Brett Hodgson has long hair and I do that tackle in Origin, I get penalised. That’s not fair. If your hair goes past your shoulder, and is past your uniform, it can get pulled and you can’t complain about it. Or get it cut. Fair dinkum.”
During the incident, Fox Sports commentators Michael Ennis and Warren Smith were divided over the call. “It’s a tough one when they’ve got long hair,” league great Ennis said in commentary.
“Tyson Frizell’s just trying to grab the jersey. You roll with a wild haircut, sometimes they’re going to get a hold of you.”
Fellow commentator Smith joked: “You grow your hair down to your shorts you’re never going to be able to be tackled.” Many fans fumed after the incident and claimed Luai had an 'unfair' advantage with long hair.
Tyson Frizell baffled over crucial Jarome Luai penalty
Frizell was equally as baffled at the decision and felt he had no option but to grab at the jersey to make a tackle. The forward said Luai might need to tie his hair up in future games.
"When his hair's hanging halfway down his back and I'm going to make a tackle, it's incidental, I guess, if I do pull his hair," he said. "It's classified as a penalty but it wasn't intentional. I'd like for him to tie his hair up."
Coach Adam O'Brien didn't share Frizell's calmness and blasted the decision as 'ridiculous' because it grants players with long hair at an advantage. "Otherwise I'll advise them all to start growing their hair long to try and get an advantage," he added.
"I think players get a bit of credit, they are actually just trying to make tackles and get people on the ground, take them to the ground. I guess there must be a lot of innuendo that players are out there to maim each other and pull hair ... it's not the case."
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