St George Illawarra Dragons front rower, Luke Bailey was recently cited and eventually exonerated by the NRL judiciary on biting charges.
Newcastle forward, Josh Perry claimed he had been bitten on the arm during the Knights v Dragons match. A nonplussed national audience watched 'Nine's Friday Night Football' attempting to interpret an incident which saw the 'victim' back-peddling from his claims at break-neck speed. On two occasions, Perry withdrew his allegation but Referee Paul Simpkins put the incident on report in any case.
After the match, Perry apologised to Bailey and both the Newcastle and St George clubs released separate statements expressing the view that there was nothing in it. Indeed, it was just one of those accidents that happen on the field. Bailey denied any deliberate action.
The matter was brought to the attention of NRL judiciary Commissioner, Jim Hall who said he'd look at it on the Monday.
Then the Telegraph came into the picture...
On Sunday and Monday, Sydney's 'premier Rugby League daily' ran articles calling Bailey 'the culprit' and claimed that Perry was 'bringing the game into disrepute'.
By Monday afternoon, Jim Hall appeared to react to the media scrutiny with both Bailey and Perry being issued with notice to appear before the judiciary on the Wednesday night. The Telegraph then ran a full page story celebrating their role in the whole affair. The report showed a picture which the tabloid editorial referred to as 'damning evidence'.
Meanwhile, several other more serious on-field incidents went through to the keeper without even raising a whisper.
On the day of the hearing, the Telegraph ran a story about how bite victims can contract the deadly HIV virus. The article did point out that such cases require there to be large amounts of blood, deep injuries and lengthy exposure to the blood. Additionally, the story made note that football players are low risk cases. But the editor still saw fit to once again publish the 'damning evidence' picture from the previous day within the confines of what was really, a medical article. The irrelevance wasn't lost on me nor was the fact that this community-wide issue was firmly planted in the sports section. Clearly, the Telegraph were not interested in doing Bailey any favours.
Then came the actual hearing?
Josh Perry reluctantly came forward and gave evidence that he thought he has been bitten. St George Illawarra employed the services of Alan Sullivan QC who took approximately 30 minutes to dismantle the charges. In the end, the Judiciary panel found that there was insufficient evidence to deliver a guilty verdict and Bailey was free to do what he does best, play football.
In the meantime, the Daily Telegraph in it's wisdom decided to withdraw any sensational conclusion to the story and in the end, had to be satisfied with sticking to the facts. That being that Bailey had been found not guilty.
Not surprisingly, the 'damning evidence' picture was nowhere to be seen.