NRL boss Peter V’landys has hit back at claims the organisation’s crackdown on dangerous high contact went missing during State of Origin.
No players were sin-binned or sent off during Game I, despite Titans enforcer Mo Fotuaika subsequently copping a one-game ban for a high shot on Latrell Mitchell and Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt earning a fine for a headhigh tackle Cameron Murray.
After weeks of referees controversially attempting to stamp out high shots with harsh penalties, the softer approach taken during the interstate showpiece drew plenty of criticism.
Fox League’s Paul Kent slammed the NRL as “a gutless organisation” for the refereeing U-turn.
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“In regards to the crackdown, I think the NRL showed themselves as a gutless organisation last night. Kyle Feldt hit Cameron Murray high and should have been have been straight off the field.
“In club football, three weeks ago he was being sent off. So for all this rubbish they carry on with that ‘we’ve got to be consistent’ – that is a shoulder into the face … It just showed that they’re not there, it’s all PR and spin and they’re weakening already. They want to try and change the game and they allow that to be a Grade I dangerous contact which ends in a fine. Like, seriously.”
But Australian Rugby League Commission chief Peter V’landys has hit back, claiming the crackdown hasn’t weakened and that the Feldt decision was correct.
“They (referees) didn’t ease up at all,’’ V’landys told 2GB radio on Friday.
“I think the players have adjusted their style. It just shows you that the elite players can quickly adjust and they did so in the State of Origin.
“There’s 700 tackles a game, there’s only one to five to the head — we just want to eradicate those.’’
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And he claimed that Feldt didn’t warrant a sin bin – or worse – despite his shoulder clearly collecting Murray’s head.
V’landys said: “There was one incident that people thought the player should’ve been sin-binned, but the bunker has all these different angles and they looked at all the angles and they believed the contact wasn’t to the head in the first instance.”
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He went on to claim the crackdown had largely achieved its aim of reducing ‘thuggery to the head’.
“The most important thing is, the players have adjusted and the thuggery to the head is gone.
“It makes the game more entertaining, but what’s more appealing to me is, it brings the women back to watch our game.
“They don’t like to see hits to the head or the thuggery and I thought our game on Wednesday showed what it is, which is entertainment-plus.
“That was proven by the fact that it was the highest-rating TV show of the year.’’