Off the Wall

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If the dispute between the NRL match review panel, and perhaps the judiciary, and the Maroons coach ever gets to court it will be the biggest show in town since the Beatles concerts.

But I hope rather than a court case centred on alleged defamation, we can sooner rather than later have a court case over the whole judiciary "process".

The way referrals and gradings are currently handled, and the way the judiciary itself operates, are at the heart of the problem. And you can add to that the nonsense that a suspension from an Origin game or Grand Final has the same "weight" as a suspension from a club match.

Let's look at the David Taylor case. He missed Origin Three, and a number of club matches, through a combination of circumstances.

Firstly, the grading of his "dangerous throw" was given was a factor, secondly his decision to fight the charge before the judiciary was a factor, and finally the "carry-over" points put him in a close to impossible position.

Let me look at the carry over points issue first of all.

When a player is charged he can take an early guilty plea and get a one week reduction in any suspension. That happens all the time, especially when the early plea means no suspension at all. But the player still accrues points...and was the start of David Taylor's problems.

You might ask, what is wrong with that?

The whole process is a denial of the basic principles of justice I was brought up to believe in. If you elect to challenge a charge, or its grading, you run the risk of a higher penalty if you are unsuccessful. Where is the "fairness and justice" in that.

The review panel is also put under unnecessary pressure by having to "grade" offences.

Why can't we go back to the system where a player was charged and then he took his chances before the judiciary panel? Indeed, given the availability of video replays and other technology, judiciaries should be better placed to decide a case than they were when technology was not available or as good as it is today, and it was a case of the referees word against that of the player.

I find the whole concept of a player effectively getting a higher penalty if he challenges a charge contrary to the principles of natural justice.

If a player, obviously supported by his club, ever sought a judicial ruling on the referral process, the outcome would be interesting.

And when it gets to the judiciary itself, reform is needed.

The judiciary should not be constrained by minimum penalties as it currently is. Once it makes a decision on the grade of an offence, its discretion is limited.

Why not go back to the period when a player went before the judiciary, took his chances, and the judiciary itself decided guilt then penalty?

And the judiciary panel needs to be reformed - it is nonsense than only former players can serve on it - how about former coaches, former referees, and fans?

The ARL/NSWRL judiciary prior to Super League was generally presided over by a senior lawyer, and also included a former official and one or more citizens.

It worked very well. When the need arose to hand out tough sentences, it sure did so. Les Boyd can attest to that.

The argument that returning to an open judiciary process under which a player could challenge a charge without the threat of getting a higher penalty would mean endless nights of judiciary hearing is complete rubbish.

Firstly, video conferencing can be used, and secondly, the reality is that most weekends the number of players who are cited is small. On many weekends there are none at all.

I am hoping that, perhaps after the "Independent Commission" is established, an NRL club with challenge the whole process before the courts.

And if that happens I know which side my money would be on!

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