The Sydney Roosters have been dealt a major blow as forward Jared Waerea-Hargreaves faces a lengthy suspension of almost two months following his involvement in a high shot and a headbutt during the team’s 32-8 victory over the Wests Tigers. Due to being a repeat offender, the 34-year-old has been hit with two separate three-match bans, which will see him miss the remainder of this season as well as the beginning of the next.
The incident occurred when Waerea-Hargreaves was sin-binned for a late and high hit on Tigers captain Api Koroisau as he was attempting to kick the ball with just 16 minutes remaining in the game. Things escalated as a scuffle broke out, resulting in Waerea-Hargreaves headbutting rival prop Stefano Utoikamanu.
Typically, a player would only be suspended for one match for such an offense, but due to Waerea-Hargreaves’ poor disciplinary record, which includes five charges this year alone, his early guilty pleas will now see him sidelined for a total of six matches.
Tigers coach Benji Marshall was furious about the incidents, expressing his belief that Waerea-Hargreaves should have been sent off. Marshall stated, “I thought he crossed the line tonight, especially with the hit. But he got what he deserved, 10 minutes,” suggesting that even a send-off would have been justified in his eyes.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson, however, downplayed Waerea-Hargreaves’ actions, arguing that his star forward receives more scrutiny than other players in the NRL. Robinson referenced Victor Radley‘s three-week suspension for a similar headbutt earlier in the year, pointing out that the repercussions of Waerea-Hargreaves’ actions could potentially impact the team if they progress to the finals. Robinson stated, “I didn’t see much to it (the headbutt), to be honest. He’s always going to get scrutinised. That’s really common. You want him to be on the edge and you want him to be in more control. That (the tackle) was a silly challenge.”
As a result of the bans, Waerea-Hargreaves will only be available to play in the Roosters‘ must-win match against the South Sydney Rabbitohs if he successfully contests both charges at the NRL judiciary. Alternatively, he could choose to fight one of the charges, with a victory enabling him to return late in the finals series if the Roosters qualify.
Aside from Waerea-Hargreaves’ suspension, the Roosters also suffered a setback in the form of Joey Manu‘s hamstring injury. Manu sustained the injury while tapping a kick dead in the first half and was unable to continue playing. Roosters coach Robinson expressed concern about the injury, stating, “It’s mild but he still had to leave the field, which is never a good sign.” On a positive note, James Tedesco is expected to return from concussion when the Roosters face the Rabbitohs, and both Billy Smith and Radley have passed their head injury assessments following the Tigers game.
In regards to the match itself, the Tigers‘ loss brings them closer to potentially receiving their second consecutive wooden spoon. In order to avoid this undesirable outcome, the Wests Tigers would need to secure a convincing victory against Manly in their upcoming match and hope for a substantial defeat for the St George Illawarra Dragons against Newcastle.
On a brighter note, young halfback Sam Walker made his mark in his first NRL game since recovering from a knee injury suffered earlier in the season. Walker impressed early on, making a dummy and showcasing his agility to score the Roosters‘ first try. However, his impact was limited in the second half after he collided with Isaiah Papali’i‘s knee, resulting in a head injury assessment, which he passed.