16 July 2019

Should Nick Cotric have been sent off or is inconsistency the real issue in rugby league?

| Tim Gavel
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Nick Cotric’s tackle should result in a send-off, but does it contribute to a greater discussion about inconsistency? Photo: Supplied.

Watching Nick Cotric’s tackle on Tim Lafai in real time, no more than 20 metres away from me as I called the game on Sunday night, I stated on air that he would be sent off.

I described the tackle as a spear tackle and have copped a fair bit for that description. It was a tackle that went horribly wrong with Lafai landing on the back of his neck. To his credit, he got to his feet straight away, lucky not be seriously injured.

On replay it is clear that Cotric is also falling so he has no control over the tackle.

It needs to be said that Cotric is an incredibly polite and decent person and would have been horrified had Lafai been seriously injured. There was definitely no malice in the tackle and no intent to harm. The speed in which the tackle was made with both players battling for the ascendancy contributed to the outcome.

Ricky Stuart was quick to make sure Cotric was mentally okay given the gravity of the situation and did his best to defend his player in the post-match press conference.

I stand by my comments at the time of the tackle that it deserved a send off and this has been backed up by the match review committee’s decision to ban him for three weeks with an early plea.

I can understand the Raiders being upset given the NRL’s inconsistency this season.

In the same game against the Dragons, a coat hanger tackle was performed on Jarrod Croker by Mikaele Ravalawa, the St George Illawarra winger. The offending player was allowed to stay on the field.

In the Raiders game against Parramatta, a tackle by Peni Terepo’s on the Raiders’ winger, Jordan Rapana, resulted in Rapana being forced from the field with a broken nose. He was lucky not to have suffered a broken jaw, yet Terepo was allowed to stay on the field before later being suspended for four weeks.

Both incidents should have resulted in send-offs.

The Hudson Young suspension for an accidental eye-gouge is hard to fathom when compared to the penalty imposed on North Queensland’s Josh McGuire. McGuire received a fine for raking the face of Manly’s Dylan Walker. Previously, McGuire had eye-gouged the Storm’s Cameron Munster, but once again he received just a financial penalty.

It is the inconsistently in the penalties imposed that is the real issue here. Until that perception changes, there will continue to be unrest.

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Had this tackle been done against a Raiders player I would have been baying for blood (ie send off) so to say it shouldn’t is the height of hypocrisy. However, there are far too many instances of Raiders players being disadvantaged in these circumstances that one can’t help but wonder about the reasoning behind it. Remember the Wighton debacle a couple of years ago? That coathanger against Croker should have been at least a sin bin for the offending player, same with the tackle against Rapana but no, so why?

As far as I know, there is nothing in the rule book about ‘Spear Tackles’. So, it doesn’t matter what it’s called. Yes, I thought he should be sent off. He was off his feet with his full weight coming down in the tackle. Intent, malicious or otherwise, should be a matter for the determination of penalty. Is it fair? No, definitely not. He’s a fine young man from what I’ve been told by people who know him. He’s not one of the serial grubs that seem to be treated differently to everyone else.

Considering the last person to be sent off for such a tackle was in 1995, yup 24 years ago do you really think he should have been sent off?

Sure, reported and suspension but a send off? To be sent off for that workout a rule change says there have been no worse tackles in the past 24 years. Which we all know is not really the case.

There was a head high in the same game that was just as dangerous and had more intent to it. What happened to that person.

Biggest issue is consistency. I know why Cotric was the first to be walked in 24 years and that is because someone in RL HQ said that this is the week to crack down on this. Nothing more.

Just stating my view, and respecting your right to express yours, but I don’t think the length of time since the last send off has anything to do with it. Might as well just get rid of the send of rule.

If the tackled player had ended up confined to a wheelchair, which isn’t a long shot in the context of that tackle, would we really be debating whether he should have been sent off?

Again, I really like Nick Cotric and look forward to seeing him develop into a superstar. I hope he’s doing OK.

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