NRL makes major admission after Wests Tigers penalty debacle

·4-min read
Pictured left is NRL CEO Andrew Abdo, with Wests Tigers captain James Tamou on the right.
The NRL has admitted the captain's challenge needs to be clarified after the Wests Tigers controversy. Pic: Getty

The NRL has made the starting concession that the captain's challenge rule needs clarification in the wake of the Wests Tigers penalty fiasco.

The Tigers have announced they won't be launching a legal challenge over the controversial one-point loss to the Cowboys in round 19.

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Wests Tigers were denied victory after the siren when the Cowboys were granted the right to challenge a play in the final second before being wrongly granted a penalty.

The game's No.1 referee Ashley Klein was axed from both on-field and video roles as a result of the contentious incident, with the Tigers exploring legal options in their hopes of being awarded the two competition points.

The Tigers still maintain the Cowboys didn't have the right to challenge the play late in the game that allowed a match-winning penalty to be awarded.

However, the joint-venture club will accept the NRL's call and not pursue legal action despite releasing a fiery statement declaring history would show the wrong team won the match.

Seen here, a shattered Wests Tigers player after the last-second defeat to the Cowboys in the NRL.
Wests Tigers players and fans were shattered after the last-second defeat to the Cowboys. Pic: AAP/Fox Sports

"We extracted a concession from the NRL that the obstruction penalty which was given was erroneous and therefore, by implication, Wests Tigers should have won that match," the statement read.

"We know it, everyone knows it ... unfortunately, the history books will not record it that way."

Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis and CEO Justin Pascoe met with NRL heavyweights Peter V'landys, Andrew Abdo and Graham Annesley last Thursday.

The Tigers' statement noted "robust and earnest discussions", saying the NRL admitted sufficient ambiguity in the rule to allow their interpretation.

They said independent legal advice determined they would "reluctantly" not take further action, despite a senior counsel seeing "cogent" arguments.

The Tigers said they did not believe a legal challenge would be in the best interests of rugby league.

"Litigation is, at best, inherently risky and Wests Tigers is not prepared to commit to what would be speculative litigation particularly in light of the cogent arguments which are available to both parties," they said.

NRL maintains captain's challenge call was valid

While the NRL accepts the last-second escort penalty given to the Cowboys was wrong, they don't agree with the Tigers' complaint that no challenge was legally permitted as no penalty was made on the field and the siren went.

The NRL has maintained the Cowboys were challenging play stopping after the full-time siren as they believed a penalty had occurred.

But the governing body has conceded it needs to review the rule so there is clarity regarding captain's challenges.

"The NRL is comfortable with the interpretation that was applied but has acknowledged, in light of the concerns raised by the Wests Tigers, that the rule needs to be reviewed at the end of the season to provide more clarity so as to ensure that there is no future misunderstanding as to the intent and application of the rule," an NRL statement read.

"Wests Tigers will be consulted as part of the review, together with other interested clubs and stakeholders.

"The NRL acknowledges the professional and respectful manner in which the representatives of the Wests Tigers have pursued their concerns on behalf of their club's members and fans."

Former referees' boss Michael Stone says the Tigers were "dudded" against the Cowboys, and described the fiasco as a "smother job" by the NRL.

"I can't believe what I saw... and how the NRL then tried to cover its tracks," Stone said.

"It's a smother job, plain and simple - they are making up the rules as they go."

The former grand final and State of Origin whistleblower questioned the NRL's handling of the incident and described its explanation about the events leading to the captain's challenge as "pure fantasy".

"For the NRL to say the game wasn't over and the Cowboys could launch a captain's challenge is pure fantasy. And they do admit they got the challenge wrong, it should not have been a penalty - it's a complete farce - sadly we have learnt little in over 30 years.

"I really couldn't believe what I was watching. I felt for the Tigers - they were dudded."

with AAP

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