The Newcastle Rugby League match review committee decision that Central youngster Justin Worley does not have a case to answer after a stray boot left Maitland player Tyle Le Prince-Campbell with a fractured cheekbone is frankly out of the Dark Ages.
The match review committee deemed that the incident was an accident. It may have been accidental, but what about the penalty for a reckless or, at best, a careless act which caused a serious head injury to an opponent.
Every other football code in Australia has declared players’ heads a no-go contact zone, but the Newcastle Rugby League is caught in some time warp and completely missed all the studies and empirical evidence which has sounded alarm bells about the long-term risks of concussion and head injuries.
The AFL is so serious it successfully appealed against its match review committee’s leniency in the sentencing of Richmond player Bachar Houli for throwing an arm back and striking Carlton's Jed Lamb. His suspension was doubled from two to four weeks.
Worley kicked out with his leg while being tackled and struck Pickers winger Le Prince-Campbell in the face. Video footage shows Le Prince-Campbell had clearly moved off his opponent when struck.
It also shows another Central player using the same flaying kicking action in the very next tackle, seemingly in an attempt to draw a penalty for being held down in a tackle.
The contact to Le Prince-Campbell’s face may have been accidental, but the tactic of the tackled player vigorously kicking his legs about is not.
Quite simply it is reckless and every bit as dangerous as raised knees, shoulder charges and head-high tackles which National Rugby League authorities have vigorously attempted to stamp out.
Pickers coach Trevor Ott complained after the game that the referee at St John Oval had not deemed the incident worthy of a penalty, and Maitland lodged a complaint with the NRL on Monday morning.
Ott told Fairfax Media that he was disappointed with the outcome and Worley should at least have been warned to be more careful.
“Our player’s head was nearly a good two and a half feet off the ground when the incident happened,” he said.
“Intentional or not it needed to be looked at because the kid’s got a broken cheekbone. It’s obviously struck him with a fair bit of force.
“They’ve had a look at it. People obviously have different opinions on things. We have ours; they have theirs.
“That’s what they’ve come up with.
“There’s not much we can do about it.”
If the Newcastle Rugby League does not make protecting players from head-high contact a priority it risks a mass exodus at junior and senior ranks.