The NRL has uncovered a second breach of rules committed by South Sydney in their clash with Brisbane last week, following the furore surrounding the fact they played with 14 men. The NRL handed down its punishment on Wednesday, hitting the Rabbitoh with a $15,000 fine rather than stripping them of the two competition points.
But the NRL also found that Souths committed a breach of team-sheet rules when they switched Hame Sele into the starting side without notifying officials. The Rabbitohs named Tevita Tatola to start at prop in the final team list submitted by the club, only to promote Sele in his place on game day.
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The move should have resulted in Souths being docked one of their interchanges, but wasn't actually picked up during the game. A similar situation occurred in the Dragons' clash with Canberra earlier this year when Moses Mbye started at hooker despite Jacob Liddle being named at No.9 on the final team sheet. It resulted in the Dragons burning one of their interchanges before the game even started.
The team-sheet blunder came in the same game that Souths were found to have had 14 players on the field for around 20 seconds in the second half. Souths made a double interchange in the 53rd minute, with Davvy Moale and Jai Arrow coming on for Tatola and Tom Burgess.
However Moale came onto the field before he was supposed to, resulting in the Rabbitohs having an extra man. Because Herbie Farnworth was in the sin-bin at the time, Souths actually played with 14 against 12 before Burgess came off the field.
The NRL's investigation revealed the error occurred because Moale handed his interchange card to a Rabbitohs club official, rather than the NRL's interchange official. Players are required to hand their card to the NRL official to prevent such breaches from occurring.
"With player Arrow and player Moale entering the field at approximately the same time, there were 14 Rabbitohs players on the field at the same time for between 15 and 20 seconds," an NRL statement read. The NRL decided that the breach did not affect the ultimate outcome of the game, but was earlier lashed by CEO Andrew Abdo, who confirmed the onus was on clubs to ensure the interchange process was run correctly.
“It shouldn’t happen,” Abdo told ABC radio on Saturday. “We need to have controls in place to make sure that it doesn’t happen again and obviously there has to be accountability for that.
"It's disappointing it's occurred. The interchange is the responsibility of the clubs and so something has gone wrong. We'll get to the bottom and we'll take the appropriate action."
South Sydney hit with fine rather than points stripped
Because the breach was deemed minor, the Rabbitohs were fined rather than having the two competition points taken away. The NRL said the $15,000 fine includes the team-sheet blunder. The Rabbitohs have five days to respond to the breach notice.
The NRL has previously stripped competition points if teams play with too many players on the field. Canterbury committed a similar breach in 2009 against Penrith when Ben Roberts, the last replacement player to take the field, scored the match-winning try for the Bulldogs. The NRL was left with no choice but to take the two points away from the Bulldogs and award them to Penrith because Roberts was an extra man and changed the result with his try.
NRL's head of football Graham Annesley said on Monday: "I don't think there ever can be a blanket rule for anything in a game like ours. There are so many circumstances, so many degrees of seriousness.
"There was a report on the weekend (about a Canterbury breach in 2009) that resulted directly in the outcome of the game with a player that shouldn't have been on the field. That's very different to another scenario where a player might not have any impact by being on the field for a short period of time."
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