In response to the suggestion that two NRL players being dismissed in two days was influenced by rugby legend Wally Lewis‘ disclosure of his dementia resulting from years of traumatic head injuries, the league has swiftly dismissed this notion.
Within a span of 24 hours, Sydney Roosters‘ forward Nathan Brown and Gold Coast’s Mo Fotuaika were both ousted from the rugby field due to high hits on Manly’s Ben Trbojevic and Warriors‘ fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad respectively. Before this, Jacob Saifiti of Newcastle Knights was the last player to be penalised with a send-off in round two.
The abrupt dismissal decisions caught Roosters‘ coach, Trent Robinson, and Titans‘ caretaker, Jim Lenihan, off guard. Both parties queried why the penalties surpassed the norm of a sin bin sanction. “What made that stand out and be a send-off in the current climate?” Robinson mused on Thursday evening regarding Brown’s tackle. He highlighted that Brown’s hit, though high and directed at the neck would not be considered excessive in their code, unlike in rugby union.
Adding to the perplexity surrounding the decisions was the revelation that both Brown and Fotuaika may only face a single-match suspension for conduct that required immediate dismissal from the field.
Rugby clubs are usually alerted by the NRL midweek about any concerns pertaining to specific gameplay areas.
Post the Penrith-Melbourne match on Friday, there was speculation among players that perhaps the detailed interview of Wally Lewis on 60 Minutes had provoked the NRL to implement a renewed focus on curtailing hits to the head.
Dismissing these conjectures, the NRL Head of Elite Competitions, Graham Annesley, declared on Saturday that these assumptions were inaccurate.“There have been no new instructions whatsoever given to referees this week,” Annesley asserted. He further stressed that officials’ actions in response to incidents during a match are purely discretionary, based on their evaluation of the severity of each instance.
Wally Lewis, popularly known as “The King” and one of rugby league‘s greatest players, shared publicly on Sunday about his struggle with a neurodegenerative condition known as CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Lewis, now 63, explained that it would remain uncertain whether he was suffering from CTE as the diagnosis can only be certified post-mortem through brain tissue analysis. However, Dr Rowena Mobbs, his treating neurologist, was almost convinced that he has CTE, caused by years of repetitive tackle-induced head injuries.
“It does look like CTE. There’s plenty of evidence pointing towards that – I’m 90 per cent certain this is the case,” Dr Mobbs told 60 Minutes.
In another development, Penrith’s Jarome Luai was spared a charge for a shoulder charge offence, instead, being cited for a grade-one careless high tackle against Melbourne’s Nelson Asofa-Solomona. Due to his history of disciplinary issues, Luai was at risk of a three-match ban after his right shoulder hit Asofa-Solomona in the head.
However, efforts shown by Luai to wrap his left arm around Asofa-Solomona, coupled with the assistance of two other Penrith defenders, likely led to a lesser charge for Luai. He now faces a $3000 fine.