Off the Wall

For the second time in as many weeks, the NRL judiciary process is under the spotlight - with Blues players Luke Lewis and Jarryd Hayne having to fight for the right to play in the second State of Origin match next week.

Unless they can overturn the charges against them they will miss the game.

After last week's appalling decision that let Johnathan Thurston off a charge for the most obscure reason, Lewis and Hayne are really buying a lottery ticket if they elect to contest the charges.

If the "weighting" given to offences also applied to the importance of the games for which a suspension might apply, then both players could almost certainly plead guilty and still take part in the second origin match.

It is, in my view, a nonsense to have a rule that gives the same weight to a suspension from an origin game to one from a standard premiership fixture.

If origin representation is to be regarded as the highest form of representation - apart from Kangaroos representation - in the game then the impact of a judiciary imposed suspension should reflect that.

Players get discounts for a good record and so on...it is surely reasonable to take the importance of the fixture a suspension will apply to into account when the "minimum penalties" clauses in the judiciary process?

I think it would be an injustice if Lewis in particular was to miss the origin match. Hayne's circumstance is different, but denying a player his origin place because he is just 12 points over the 100 point one week suspension provision is also difficult to defend.

Hayne's charges arises from a spiteful match against the Melbourne, one in which the Storm captain, Cameron Smith, told referee Tony Archer the Storm players "had nothing to play for". If that is not an ominous warning of what we can expect in the future then nothing is!

If, for example, a suspension applied to an origin game it would not be unreasonable for a player to be given a 50 point discount.

If that happened then both Hayne and Lewis would be free to play - but they would have substantial carryover points that they would have to take into account in the future.

The alternative would be for suspensions - other than for the most serious category of offences - to apply only to NRL fixtures. That can be complicated - but not impossible.

Whatever happens, the current system has an inherent unfairness about it.

I have no doubt there will be calls tonight and tomorrow for the judiciary referral process to be reviewed after Billy Slater totally escaped referral. And these calls are not without some justification.

The final aspect of the process that must be rectified relates to the structure of the judiciary panel.

The judiciary chairman, Judge Greg Woods, does not have a say in deciding guilt or otherwise. He is there to guide the lay members on matters of the league rules etc.

The lay judiciary panel members are all former players - a silly provision that is a hangover from the Super League era. It ought to be consigned to history!

The judiciary panel should be more representative and not comprised only of former players. It could include a former player, a former coach, and a citizen. And how about a woman judiciary panel member?

And the chairman, distinguished jurist that he is, should have a vote as well.

Hayne and Lewis will almost certainly be forced to take their chances before the judiciary tomorrow might. There ought to be a better way - given what is stake...the chance to play in one of the most important games of the season!

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