Penrith prop Trent Merrin says Canberra's Charlie Gubb should have been sent off for his "disgusting" tackle on teammate Nathan Cleary.
Gubb was handed a grade-two dangerous contact charge for his late dive straight into Cleary's legs midway through the Panthers' 23-22 NRL win on Friday.
An early guilty plea will keep the Raiders forward's punishment at a one-week suspension but Merrin felt his carelessness had put Cleary in danger while in a vulnerable position.
The star 20-year-old halfback spent eight weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury this season before returning ahead of schedule to play a starring role in his State of Origin debut for NSW last week.
"As a middle you've got to put heat on the kickers but obviously you've got to respect the player as well," Merrin told Fox Sports' Big League Wrap.
"It was disgusting. I was on the bench when it happened. I think it's a send-off straight away - you can't do it.
"We've got kids watching the game, young halves who want to be in those positions and to see that it's something they wouldn't want to come in to, so it's something we need to really tidy up in our game."
Former premiership-winning hooker Michael Ennis agreed playmakers must be better protected by referees.
"I thought Charlie Gubb should have been sent off," Ennis said.
"We see these pedantic penalties for minor ruck infringements but this one is something we just can't tolerate in the game.
"Charlie Gubb just comes spearing in at his legs - how Nathan didn't break his leg I'll never know. It's just a horrible, horrible look."
Johnathan Thurston has led calls for more protection from late tackles, having been consistently targeted throughout his decorated career.