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The pitchforks were sharpened before Kenny Bromwich hit the deck, the torches lit as furious fans headed to their nearest online venting apparatus.
"HOW COULD NATHAN CLEARY POSSIBLY ESCAPE A JUDICIARY CHARGE??!!?", the punters screamed, all in caps.
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"FAVOURITISM. PROTECTED SPECIES. NRL GOLDEN BOY. DAD GOT HIM OFF," they chanted.
"REMEMBER ISSAC LUKE? WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF ISSAC LUKE," they implored, sharing images of Luke's 2014 spear tackle that ruled him out of Souths' 2014 grand final win.
Forget the fact that it was the right decision not to charge Cleary.
Granted, it was a close run thing and Cleary was only a few more degrees away from it going horribly wrong, but no player – no matter their standing in the game – should be sat down for a tackle that was marginal at best.
Cleary is simply paying the price for being the best and most high profile player in his team. Having his dad as coach only ratchets the outrage meter up a few more notches.
It's tall poppy syndrome at its finest.
Ask yourself this: If it were Scott Sorensen or Paul Momirovski involved in the tackle, how much coverage would it have received?
Sure, you can mount a good argument the match review committee is inconsistent.
Some decisions have left deep crevices in my scalp, so head-scratching they are in their perplexity. This is not one of them.
Cleary should not pay the price just to equal the score for other perceived injustices of the past. Just ask Issac Luke.
"Don’t worry about the similarities between my tackle and Nathan Cleary's tackle. The boys will get us home this weekend and I'm looking forward to being there to watch an awesome game," he tweeted.
If Bully can get over it, so can the rest of us.
Sup guys. Don’t worry about the similarities between my tackle and Nathan Clearys tackle.
The boys will get us Home this weekend and I’m looking forward to being there to watch an awesome game.
— issac luke (@issacluke_14) September 26, 2021
Where to from here for Storm?
First it was Cooper Cronk's departure that was supposed to derail the Melbourne juggernaut.
When that didn't eventuate, Billy Slater's exit was supposedly the catalyst for mediocrity. Nope. Think again.
Okay, but surely they couldn’t overcome the loss of Cameron Smith?
Well, without the GOAT the Storm hardly missed a beat as they tied up another minor premiership.
But was the shock preliminary final loss to Penrith an indication we are finally going to see Melbourne's share price drop?
The club's heart and soul, Dale Finucane, has played his last game in purple and Nicho Hynes and Josh Addo-Carr are also on their way out.
Is it possible it’s going to be the loss of players outside the Big Three that ultimately triggers a dramatic fall?
We will see. We've been down this road before and come away looking foolish.
But it promises to be one of the most intriguing storylines of 2022.
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