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Veteran rugby league journalist Phil Rothfield has called out Channel Nine commentators Phil Gould, Brad Fittler and Cameron Smith over their response to Karl Lawton's send-off.
Manly forward Lawton is facing at least a month on the sidelines after he was hit him with the highest-possible grade for a dangerous throw under the game's judicial system.
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Lawton was charged with a grade-three offence after being sent-off just nine minutes into Manly's 40-22 loss to South Sydney on Friday night.
Lawton lifted Souths forward Cameron Murray before driving him into the ground in sickening scenes, with the tackle coming close to resembling a spear tackle.
Murray was uninjured in the tackle, but things could have ended up much worse.
However Gould and Fittler questioned whether Lawton deserved to be sent off while in commentary at the time.
“It’s just momentum. No-one’s hurt, everyone’s OK. Settle down,” Gould said after the tackle.
“He doesn’t need a spell.”
After Lawton was sent from the field, Gould then said: “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
“It’s a little bit of a flip but to be sent off for that when there’s absolutely no injury to the other player, I find that extraordinary.
“You want your prime time TV show to now be 12 on 13, if that’s your product I give up.”
Fittler said: “In support of Gus here, I don’t think at any stage that deserved a send-off.
“And I’ve got to say what he’s got to do is make sure he applauds Cam Murray. We see a lot of players get in this situation and they’ll drop their head to the ground while Cam Murray looked to protect himself.
“I thought that could have been an awful lot worse and I really can’t believe Lawton is walking past me on the sideline.”
Smith said a sin-bin “would’ve been sufficient”, but fellow Queensland legend Johnathan Thurston asked: “If that’s not a send-off offence, what is?”
— CODE NRL (@codenrl) April 29, 2022
Phil Gould and Brad Fittler under fire
Speaking on the Big Sports Breakfast on Monday morning, Rothfield said Gould and Fittler's comments were "bordering on irresponsible".
“I thought it was a correct decision. I have no doubt it was a correct decision and it could have led to a very, very serious injury for Cameron Murray,” Rothfield said.
“I think the commentary with people like Phil Gould and Cameron Smith and 'Freddy' Fittler, who I respect so much, was bordering on irresponsible.
“I think we’ve got to support match officials in situations like this. The game is not going soft when we remove players from the field for an old-fashioned spear tackle, which it was. I applaud the NRL for not tolerating it.
“I think there would have been a bigger blow-up if Karl Lawton stayed on the field.”
Rothfield said officials should have taken further action against Canberra star Jack Wighton, who was penalised for a lifting tackle against the Warriors but allowed to stay on the field.
Wighton is now facing a two-week ban after a grade-two charge.
“I think they made a mistake with the Jack Wighton tackle against the Warriors," Rothfield added.
"The match review committee has shown that by handing out a high grade ... he’s going to miss a couple of weeks.
“Any spear tackle, anything that puts the head and neck area in danger has to be treated as seriously as what they did on Friday night.”
Fand and fellow journalists were also unimpressed with Fittler and Gould's comments.
Watched the Lawton tackle over and again on slo-mo. Murray’s 1st point of contact with the ground was thankfully the top of his left shoulder. However, he was an inch away from landing directly on his head. We know the trauma that can come from that. I’m content with a send-off.
— David Riccio (@DaveRic1) April 29, 2022
Lifted past the horizontal, almost to the vertical. Doesn’t matter where he lands, head or shoulder is down to luck there. Send off any day of the week.
— Chris Coleman (@CJCau) April 29, 2022
Sat on this for 5 mins…
So are we about protecting the player by punishing tackles like that or making sure the TV network has a 13 on 13 contest?
Spare me the ‘no one is hurt’ garbage… that has to go.
Murray is very very lucky, as is Lawton really. #NRLSouthsManly #NRL pic.twitter.com/lFMUHT7Vrf
— The NRL Tweet (@NRLTweet) April 29, 2022
Lawton got that one horribly wrong and deserved to be sent off. Meanwhile, the morons at Channel 9 are ranting about intent. They really make this sport hard to watch at times. #NRLSouthsManly
— Slatts (@trentslatts) April 29, 2022
— Cam (@KennysKillerLEX) April 29, 2022
According to Gus Gould and Brad Fittler, someone has to die for it to be a send off, injured for 10 in the bin. Everything else, fair play, play on.
— T Mac (@NoShins81) April 29, 2022
So the dangerous tackle is ok is it? Yes
Are broken necks ok? No
So the whinging of #Gould and #Fittler on #Ch9 is warranted!!
These commentators must be joking. As they have played footy I wonder what their reaction would be if they were in a dangerous tackle? #NRL
— 🇦🇺 Adrian 🇦🇺 (@ajf247) April 29, 2022
Well if Gould and Fittler think that tackle is okay because Cameron Murray didn't get hurt and NRL are trying to protect the welfare of the players they should both be taken off commenting during all future NRL games. That tackle was dangerous FULLSTOP.
— Patrick Kohi (@KohiPatrick) April 30, 2022
Yet Gould and Fittler disgustingly didn’t agree. Their reason, ‘there was no injury’. Wish Gould would give up as he constantly threatens.
— B.F (@aus99a) April 29, 2022
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