Craig Bellamy defends besieged Melbourne Storm star amid NRL furore

·Sports Reporter
·5-min read
Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy and player Nelson Asofa-Solomona are pictured left and right.
Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy says he doesn't want Nelson Asofa-Solomona to change his game despite him coming under heavy criticism. Pictures: Getty Images

Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy has launched an impassioned defence of under-fire prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona after he escaped the NRL judiciary with a fine for the fifth time this season.

Asofa-Solomona came under heavy fire after he landed an elbow to the face of Sydney young gun Joseph Suaalii while the Roosters star was pinned in a tackle on the ground.

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Pleading guilty to a grade one charge for the fifth time this season alone, Asofa-Solomona was left free to face the Parramatta Eels on Thursday night after being handed a $3000 fine.

The latest financial penalty added to the $12,000 in total Asofa-Solomona has paid in fines this year, however Bellamy has no plans on asking the hulking prop of changing the way he plays despite the major criticism directed at him.

Only the NRL judiciary itself came has come under stiffer criticism for allowing so many charges to not eventually mount to a suspension for the Storm star.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Bellamy said it wasn't up to Asofa-Solomona to suspend himself.

"He hasn't been suspended, he's been fined and there's a lot of other guys fined," Bellamy said..

"The committee who put the charges out, they haven't seen it as that severe that they've given him weeks.

"At the end of the day we want Nelson to play his footy, how he plays when he plays well, and that's what we need him to continue with."

Bellamy said he "hoped" Asofa-Solomona wouldn't come under special scrutiny given the media attention since he appeared to drop his elbow into the head of Roosters winger Joseph Suaalii's in a tackle last Friday.

Competition heavyweights Melbourne and Parramatta are level on the ladder with the Storm only ahead in fourth on points differential.

Whoever wins will lock in a double chance top-four spot while the loser will be thrust in sudden-death in week one of the finals.

NRL judiciary slammed over Nelson Asofa-Solomona controversy

The latest incident marked the 10th time in Asofa-Solomona's career that he has pleaded guilty to a charge, but the 26-year-old has only missed a total of four games as a result.

Leading NRL reporter Paul Kent was one of many to savage the NRL over the decision, labelling the judiciary 'gutless' in its inability to stamp out unneccesary plays like Asofa-Solomona's.

He said it made no sense for the NRL to rightly be concerned about head trauma by implementing the HIA system among other moves, but more had to be done in situations where players could injure other players - possibly in the long term.

“The fact is it’s not a big enough deterrent and the NRL carries on with all this rubbish about protecting the player and every game now is held up with all these HIA’s which you have to sit through because we care so much about the brain," Kent said.

“Yet we do nothing to actually discourage the other side of it which is the intent to cause it.

“Once it’s happened, get him off get him fixed up and let’s have a look at him. But there’s not enough deterrent to say get it out of your game.

“The fact that Asofa-Solomona has been up five times this year with charges and has not missed a game, but plead guilty to all five.”

Nelson Asofa-Solomona is pictured breaking a tackle against the Sydney Roosters.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona escaped with a fine for his fifth charge of the 2022 NRL season. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Fellow writer Buzz Rothfield said the NRL desperately needed to consider the long-term ramifications of a sporting culture which let let such ugly incidents pass so easily.

Bearing in mind legal action that has been launched in the past against various sporting codes due to the lifeling impact of concussion for some, Rothfield said the league had to do a better job of protecting players and doubling down on stamping out brutish behaviour on field.

“The NRL I think, and I spoke to Martin Lang yesterday, who is a really intelligent fellow who has studied neuroscience and is conducting research into brain injuries from contact sport,” Rothfield told Big Sports Breakfast on Monday.

“He raised a really interesting point that the fact that players like Nelson Asofa-Solomona are repeat offenders, have been found guilty of foul play ten times in the last three years, but keeps getting away with fines.

“Lang is of the opinion that there will be litigation on a grand scale, that it is a legal time bomb, further down the track a good lawyer will get hold of a player who is suffering from the after effects of concussion and point out there was not a duty of care while he was playing football."

With AAP

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