NRL wording puts stars at suspension risk

·3-min read

A loophole in the NRL's judiciary code has left 36 players at risk of missing finals matches for minor offences, despite a rule being introduced two years ago to help prevent the issue.

The NRL made the ruling tweak before the 2020 season to allow players one additional fine for finals matches, ensuring small incidents would not cost them a spot in a big game.

It came after South Sydney captain Sam Burgess missed a qualifying final for a hair pull, prompting him to label the NRL judiciary a "kangaroo court".

Ordinarily players can only accept a fine for their first two offences of a season, before missing games after any further charges.

However, under the largely overshadowed 2020 rule - given the pandemic and changes the game has undergone since - players were granted one additional fine for the finals.

"Nobody wants to see players miss big games for relatively minor offences," NRL head of football Graham Annesley said at the time.

"Even if players have exhausted their monetary sanctions by round 25, all players involved in the finals series will receive an additional monetary fine they can apply for."

But that won't be enough to save any player charged this weekend.

Under Rule 39 of the judiciary code, it states that the additional fine will only be available for offences committed during finals matches.

That means players won't be given the extra chance for this weekend, despite the ban needing to be served in the finals.

The NRL has since confirmed to AAP that is the correct interpretation of the rule.

It has the potential to impact some of the competition's biggest names, including Jarome Luai, Tevita Pangai, Dylan Edwards, Apisai Koroisau, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Brandon Smith.

The likes of Angus Crichton, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, David Klemmer, Tyson Frizell and David Fifita will miss crucial sudden-death matches if charged.

Each would face bans for charges as minor as grade-one tripping, contrary conduct, careless high tackles, dangerous throws or dangerous contact.

That is particularly telling given that of the 295 offences this season, 243 of them have been grade-one offences.

Several players have been playing with the threat of a suspension hanging over their head for several months.

"You don't really go into a game thinking about that stuff, but if it does happen it can hurt you in the long run," Eels five-eighth Dylan Brown said last week.

"But you try and make sure it doesn't play on your mind too much."

PLAYERS AT RISK OF FINALS BANS IN ROUND 25

MELBOURNE: Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Brandon Smith

PENRITH: Kurt Capewell, Stephen Crichton, Dylan Edwards, Apisai Koroisau, Moses Leota, Jarome Luai, Liam Martin, Tevita Pangai

SOUTH SYDNEY: Taane Milne, Jaydn Su'A, Cody Walker

MANLY: Toafofoa Sipley. Josh Aloiai

PARRAMATTA: Dylan Brown, Joey Lussick, Nathan Brown

SYDNEY ROOSTERS: Egan Butcher, Angus Crichton, Daniel Suluka-Fifita, Siosiua Taukeiaho, Sitili Tupouniua, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

NEWCASTLE: Tyson Frizell, David Klemmer

CRONULLA: Briton Nikora, Aiden Tolman, Jesse Ramien, Jack Williams

CANBERRA: Jordan Rapana

GOLD COAST: David Fifita, Moeaki Fotuaika, Patrick Herbert, Tyrone Peachey, Kevin Proctor

* Only includes players selected in 21-man squads for round 25

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