Ricky Stuart left fuming after Raiders dudded by NRL call on South Sydney player

The win for South Sydney Is being met with frustration from rival clubs.

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart wants an explanation from the NRL over a ruling that allows South Sydney's Jacob Gagai to use the All Stars match towards his ban. Pic: Getty
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart wants an explanation from the NRL over a ruling that allows South Sydney's Jacob Gagai to use the All Stars match towards his ban. Pic: Getty

Veteran Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is demanding a 'please explain' from the NRL over the decision to allow South Sydney’s Jacob Gagai to count the All Stars game as part of his suspension. Gagai copped a one-game ban from the state championship on grand final day last year, and looked set to be ruled out of the first round of the NRL season.

However, the Rabbitohs successfully appealed after the NRL had initially knocked back the club's application to have the All Stars game count towards his suspension, leaving Gagai free to play against Manly in Las Vegas. “We are a club that has wholeheartedly supported the All Stars concept since its inception, we know the importance that the game has for anyone selected in it be Indigenous or Māori side, and for the NSWRL to take this sort of attitude to it is mind blowing,” Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly said after the NRL’s original decision.

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Following Solly's comments, the NRL backflipped on its initial ruling and allowed Gagai to use the All Stars game for his suspension. The Rabbitohs submitted further evidence to the NRL and Judiciary Chairman, Justice Geoff Bellew decided that Gagai could use the All Stars match to serve as part of his suspension.

The development has left Stuart seething after Canberra's own application around Sebastian Kris was denied. The Raiders flyer was unable to use the All Stars game as part of his five-game ban from a dangerous tackle in the final round of the 2023 season.

Ricky Stuart wants a 'please explain' from the NRL

Kris was rubbed out of Canberra's final round loss to the Knights and then missed three Tests for New Zealand, leaving him with one more game to serve as part of the ban. Kris would have been able to return in round one for the Raiders if he could have used the All Stars game as the last in his ban and a furious Stuart wants answers over the apparent "inconsistency" from the NRL.

“I just hope I can get a proper justification on the inconsistency and not some feeble response,” Stuart told The Daily Telegraph. "I have a proud Torres Strait Island boy wanting to know why the All Stars game is not deemed important enough to serve part of his suspension as it has for other individuals. We will go through the right channels on Monday with the NRL to ask where the consistency is.”

Stuart has a right to be confused and a little miffed with the NRL's ruling on Gagai, considering it appears no different from the situation with Kris. The Raiders already have holes to fill in their backline following Jack Wighton's move to South Sydney and the retirement of Jarrod Croker, with young guns Chevy Stewart, Xavier Savage, Ethan Strange and Kaeo Weekes pushing for inclusion in Canberra's starting side.

Another club who will surely feel hard done by are the Sydney Roosters, who saw their own application around star prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves turned down by the NRL. The Roosters were hoping to have the veteran Kiwi forward available for their season opener against Brisbane in Las Vegas but were also unable to use the All Stars game as the final match in his seven-game suspension.

Pictured left to right, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Seb Kris.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Seb Kris both had applications denied by the NRL to use the All Stars game towards their bans. Pic: Getty

Waerea-Hargreaves was handed a lengthy ban for two charges of dangerous contact and striking during the Tricolours' Round 26 clash with the Tigers in 2023. The Roosters then played three more finals games that Waerea-Hargreaves missed, while the Kiwi prop had another three count towards his ban after missing New Zealand's Pacific Championship campaign, having been named in the preliminary squad.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported at the end of January that Roosters powerbrokers were denied an application to have the Kiwi enforcer serve the last of his seven-game ban in the All Stars game. The report stated that NRL judiciary chair Geoff Bellew knocked back the application from the Roosters, meaning he will miss the Las Vegas showdown against the Broncos at Allegiant Stadium on March 2 (March 3 AEDT).

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