Off the Wall

Not that he would want us to, but we need to spare a thought for Sydney barrister, Geoff Bellew, SC, who faces a herculean task before the NRL judiciary tonight.

Not only has he been retained by the Eels to try and get Jarryd Hayne off a head butting charge, the Panthers have now retained him to try and get Luke Lewis off a dangerous throw charge as well.

And the NSW Blues team for the second state of origin cannot be finalised until after tonight's hearing as both players will be in it if they can't beat the charges.

Geoff Bellew comes from the very best rugby league stock. His late father, Tom, was someone I was proud to count as a friend. He was Chairman of the NSWRL in the 1980's, and then Chairman of the Gold Coast Chargers until the politics of the Super League settlement - and some appalling backstabbing by a couple of his so-called friends - consigned a team that Tom had made profitable to history!

But Tom Bellew, for the best part of 40 years, was the acknowledged authority, worldwide, on the rules of the game. He would, I am confident to say, be appalled at some of the recent "interpretations" of the rules!

Geoff Bellew, eminent barrister and rugby league tragic that he is, faces a massive challenge tonight - because of the way the judiciary process works.

The rules at that apply in a court of law certainly don't apply in the NRL.

There is no point Geoff arguing mitigating circumstances - such as provocation - and even the records of the players won't make a difference.

He is effectively going to have to try and get both players off with one arm tied behind his back!

These are not charges that can be downgraded. He simply has to try and get both players off. If he doesn't they won't be playing in next week's origin match.

Surely a better process, following on from my comments yesterday, would be to free up the judiciary to decide whether or not a suspension should be served?

In other words, once a player elects to go before the judiciary, all bets are off. The judiciary can confirm the penalty proscribed for the charge, or reduce it or increase it.

Where the imposition of the penalty would deny a player origin - or grand final - representation, the judiciary ought to be able to apply a substantial fine, or even a suspended sentence, which would be activated, and increased, if the player came before it again in a specified period.

The current system is totally inflexible. And that inflexibility makes it inherently unfair.

Geoff Bellew has an excellent record before the judiciary - and extraordinary record in view of the way the process operates.

But the pressure he is under - and the two players are under - would be less, and fairer, if the judiciary process had a greater degree of flexibility, and, quite frankly, fairness.

This area ought to be a priority for the Independent Commission - if we ever get to have one.

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