Andrew Johns hits out after Melbourne Storm win soured by Jahrome Hughes suspension

The Storm will be without their halfback for next week's clash with Newcastle - and a number of NRL pundits aren't happy.

Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler have criticised the punishment handed to Jahrome Hughes after the Melbourne Storm halfback pushed a referee in an attempt to stop a try on Saturday. The Melbourne Storm will be without Hughes for next week's clash with Newcastle after he was hit with a one-game suspension for pushing referee Chris Butler.

Hughes was attempting to defend the Storm line in the 58th minute against the Warriors when he found himself directly behind the official. With Rocco Berry bearing down on the try-line, Hughes opted to shove Butler out of the way so he could tackle the Warriors centre and prevent a try.

Jahrome Hughes, pictured here pushing referee Chris Butler.
Jahrome Hughes is facing a one-game suspension after pushing referee Chris Butler. Image: Getty/Fox League

Butler hit the ground amidst the chaos, and the incident went largely unnoticed at the time. Commentators remarked that Buttler had 'fallen over' amid the frantic scenes, but replays showed that Hughes actually pushed the referee.

On Sunday, the NRL match review committee hit Hughes with a contrary conduct offence - which carries a one-game ban with an early guilty plea. Hughes later accepted the suspension.

Storm fans have been left fuming over the punishment, and Hughes also won support from Fittler and Johns on Sunday. "He wouldn't have even been watching," Johns said on the Sunday Footy Show. "He is just watching (Berry). He's not even looking at the referee. He is a bit hard done by there. We need to protect the referees, without a doubt. Especially at junior level ... but for me that was an accident."

Fittler was among the many to question the positioning of Butler and whether he should have been in that situation. The former NSW State of Origin coach said Hughes didn't have enough time to make a conscious decision in relation to the official.

The development has put somewhat of a dampener on Melbourne's remarkable 30-26 victory. Xavier Coates scored a miraculous try in the corner to win the game in the dying seconds, producing what many have labelled the best try in NRL history. But the win has come at a cost.

With five-eighth Cameron Munster already out with a groin injury and unlikely to return next week, the Storm will be without both of their first-choice halves. Jonah Pezet has filled in admirably for Munster, while Tyran Wishart and Bronson Garlick appear the most likely options to replace Hughes.

Jahrome Hughes, pictured here pushing Chris Butler after the referee got in his way.
Jahrome Hughes pushed Chris Butler when the referee got in his way. Image: Fox League

Raiders, Tigers and Knights players hit with fines by NRL

Other charges to come out of Saturday's games were for a careless high tackle from Ethan Strange and danegrous contact from Xavier Savage. The Raiders can both accept fines for their respective incidents.

Aidan Sezer was also charged with a high tackle on Jordan Rapana in the Raiders and Tigers clash, but can also get off with a fine. Likewise for Tyson Gamble, who was also hit with a careless high tackle charge after the Knights' loss to the Cowboys.

Briton Nikora and Jarome Luai get off relatively lightly

On Saturday, the match review committee charged Briton Nikora with grade-two dangerous contact and offered him a two-match ban for his late and high hit on Viliame Kikau. The second-rower will miss the next two games against the Wests Tigers and Canberra if he takes the early guilty plea, but risks sitting out the following game against the Rabbitohs as well if he challenges and fails.

Nikora is highly likely to take the two-game ban considering it seems like a pretty light punishment. Many were gobsmacked that Nikora wasn't sent off completely after he hit Kikau in the head with his shoulder after his Bulldogs opponent had passed the ball.


And Jarome Luai was hit with two separate charges but can accept $1800 fines for each. Luai was reported twice in the Panthers' win over Parramatta - one for a high tackle and the other for a blatant trip.

The five-eighth hit Bailey Simonsson with a swinging arm in the early stages of the contest, and the Parramatta winger never returned after failing his head injury assessment (HIA). The Panthers five-eighth then stuck out his foot and tripped Mitchell Moses after being wrong-footed by the Parramatta halfback, giving away a penalty.

Some thought either or both of the incidents could have warranted a sin-bin, and the fact he has avoided suspension hasn't gone down well either. Luai is now free to take on the Broncos next week in a blockbuster grand final rematch.