Revelations by the NRL‘s head of elite competitions, Graham Annesley, emerged on Monday, admitting both the Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra were on the receiving end of incorrect officiating decisions. Among these inaccuracies was the reason Jarome Luai avoided being sent to the sin-bin following his tackle on Nelson Asofa-Solomona, which Annesley attributed to physics.
In his routine debrief of the weekend’s games, Annesley confirmed that the Wests Tigers had indeed conceded a try from a forward pass by Jack Wighton. Additionally, St George Illawarra should have seen a try awarded when Clint Gutherson attempted to rake the ball from Jacob Liddle.
Rejecting the assertions of unconscious bias by the referees towards teams languishing at the bottom of the ladder, Annesley stated that most weeks presented a long line of clubs protesting officiating decisions. Interestingly, he noted, this phenomenon persists irrespective of whether the clubs recorded a win in the game.
He said, to quote directly, “If you spoke to [NRL officials] Jared Maxwell or David Fairleigh about the conversations they have with coaches each week, I’d dare say 75 per cent of them, whether they’ve won or lost, believe they did not get the rub of the green.”
The case of Wighton’s pass, integral for Seb Kris’s scoring, appears to be overlooked by a touch judge who was positioned in line with the play. To compound the matter, Tigers fans were battling to overcome Annesley’s earlier acknowledgement that a Canberra try should never have been allowed as a direct result of Luke Brooks being thrust in the back.
In response, Annesley openly declared the forward pass indisputable, stating that from the halfway line, “I don’t think you can reach any other conclusion”. The fact that Wighton got pushed over, and the ball slowly dribbled along the ground, could have perhaps distracted the sideline official. However, Annesley believes that the official, regardless of the confusion, would have indeed seen the pass as legitimate unless he deemed it incorrect.
The weekend loss left Tigers coach Tim Sheens feeling exasperated with the event’s officiating, a sentiment shared by Ryan Carr, Dragons caretaker coach. The pair were left puzzled over why Junior Amone failed to score following a raking motion assisted by Gutherson in his tussle with Liddle.
Annesley, corroborating these complaints, elucidated that Gutherson’s clear raking motion led to the ball’s dislodgement indicating the tackle count should have reset and the try awarded.
Regarding accusations of head-slamming on Andrew Davey by Zac Lomax, Annesley dismissed them, categorizing the incident as more of a back slam. Simultaneously, Ryan Matterson, Parramatta’s team member, avoided being reported for a hip-drop tackle on Jack Bird, since “there was minor force and he pushed the leg rather than fell on it,” Annesley commented.
Commenting on Luai’s non-sentencing to the sin-bin for his high shot on Asofa-Solomona, Annesley explained the lack of force fed into the decision. Reinforcing this decision, Penrith coach Ivan Clearly humorously described the game as “a little fly against a big giant.”
Annesley consulted with the match review committee to emphasise that the primary determining factor in these incidents was indeed the degree of force, or lack thereof, “what saved Jarome Luai from going to the bin.”