Phil Gould lashes out over NRL 'embarrassment': 'It's a disgrace'

·4-min read
Phil Gould called the decision to suspend North Queensland's Coen Hess for dangerous contact on Campbell Graham 'an embarrassment' to the NRL.
Phil Gould called the decision to suspend North Queensland's Coen Hess for dangerous contact on Campbell Graham 'an embarrassment' to the NRL.

Rugby League icon Phil Gould has launched a stunning tirade against the way the NRL is officiated, labelling some of the punishments for dangerous contact “an embarrassment to our game."

Round 24 featured a number of incidents that landed several stars in hot water for heavy contact on rival players.

CODE WARS: Joseph Suaalii pursuit comes with contract twist

SO SAD: Paul Green's wife gives incredible tribute at funeral

Coen Hess accepted a one-game ban for the Cowboys' final regular season game against Penrith after pleading guilty to a grade-two careless high tackle, following an incident with Rabbitohs' centre Campbell Graham.

It came after the former Queensland State of Origin second-rower moved up and clashed heads with Graham in the dramatic dying stages of the Cowboys' loss to the Bunnies.

The incident was similar to one that saw Cronulla's Dale Finucane banned for an accidental head clash with Penrith centre Stephen Crichton last month.

Sydney Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was also sent to the sin bin for a potential headbutt on Melbourne forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona after being pinged for “contact on the ground”.

Asofa-Solomona also came under fire for dropping his elbow into the head of Roosters young gun Joseph Suaalii during the same match, with the Storm prop escaping his fifth charge of the season with just a $3000 fine.

Despite many critics slamming the Match Review Committee for not cracking down hard enough on dangerous contact - particularly when it comes to the head - Gould is arguing that many of the sanctions are in fact too heavy.

Speaking on Wide World of Sports’ Six Tackles with Gus, the Bulldogs' general manager of football said heavy contact in the NRL was "unavoidable" and insisted that the number of suspensions and fined being dished out are "ridiculous".

“This is all posturing, this is all political posturing... so that the game can say to the fans and the media, ‘We’ve done our bit without trying to affect the game’,” Gould said.

“We suspend, we charge far too many players. The suspensions are too harsh, the fines are too harsh. It’s all ridiculous. Some of the things they get fined for are just ridiculous — they’re not even (worth) penalties in games.

“But it’s the officialdom acting out what they think their job is and saying, ‘No one can criticise us’."

Gould used the accidental head clash examples of Finucane and Hess - and the suspensions that ensued - to claim that "political correctness" is ruining the sport.

Pictured left, Sharks star Dale Finucane looks at the ear of Panthers flyer Stephen Crichton after an accidental head clash between the pair.
Sharks star Dale Finucane looks at the ear of Panthers flyer Stephen Crichton after an accidental head clash between the pair. Pic: Getty

Phil Gould says 'political correctness' ruining NRL

“The Finucane one itself was one of the most disgraceful decisions I’ve ever seen by an judiciary in any sport anywhere. Then to follow that up with the Coen Hess one — to me it’s an embarrassment to our game, it’s a disgrace.”

“This is the political correctness that our game now is,” Gould continued.

“I don’t know what they want the game to look like. I really don’t.

“I still don’t know why Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was sent from the field the other night. I still don’t know why."

The veteran commentator said rather than trying to pander to the criticism around dangerous contact, NRL officials needed to understand that accidents are bound to happen in the game, but they should not always be punishable.

“You cannot avoid some of the physical confrontations in our game and you can’t avoid injury, you can’t avoid head clashes, you can’t avoid contact with the head... it doesn’t mean it’s illegal, it doesn’t mean it’s intentional, it doesn’t even mean it’s hurt most of the time.

“This is frustrating to me.”

Finucane agrees with Gould's assessment and reiterated that accidental head clashes such as the ones that saw he and Hess banned, should not be deemed illegal.

"If there's no shoulder contact I find it hard to sanction," Finucane said.

"Accidents happen in a game and head collisions happen more often than people would think in a game.

"I guess the measure of the force is the determining factor, whether it's soft or whether it's firm.

"I don't think that 'accidental' really matters anymore now, by the sounds of how they're policing it. Because he (Hess) was sanctioned based on accidental negligence."

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.