In a recent NRL showdown, Wests Tigers young prop, Stefano Utoikamanu, referred to Roosters hard-man, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, as a “grub”. This comment came after Utoikamanu was headbutted by the Roosters player and had made jests about Waerea-Hargreaves’ age as tensions mounted on field.
The edge was sharp during the match on Saturday night, ultimately resulting in a sin-binning and subsequent three-match suspension for the Roosters‘ prop after he was deemed guilty of striking. Striking is a term typically used in the NRL to refer to a deliberate act of violence against an opponent.
Waerea-Hargreaves, who is now 34 years old, admitted to striking the 23-year-old Utoikamanu on the field. Furthermore, there’s still the impending issue of a dangerous contact charge related to a high tackle on Api Koroisau, which Waerea-Hargreaves will challenge at the NRL judiciary hearing scheduled on Tuesday night.
Detailing the incident at hand, Utoikamanu said, “I saw him do that hit on Api and I got angry,”. He continued, “Api’s our captain, and I tried to have his back. I know Jared is a nice bloke off the field, but he’s a bit of a grub on the field. I wanted to get into him a bit.” Utoikamanu also admitted to taunting Waerea-Hargreaves about his age, ultimately triggering the heated headbutt incident.
Fellow Tigers player, David Klemmer, applauded Utoikmanau’s willingness to get down and dirty on behalf of his teammates. He commented, “Young Stef was looking after his skipper, we all came in, it escalated, but he held his own. I’m proud of him. Taking on Jared, he’s a big warhorse, so good on Stef.”
Furthermore, Klemmer also confirmed that when going up against Waerea-Hargreaves, players should always be prepared for a tough and physical contest. Though Klemmer did confess he didn’t hear Utoikamanu’s age-related japes at Waerea-Hargreaves, as he himself was in an intense clinch with Brandon Smith and Angus Crichton, jokingly referring to it as “fighting for my life.”
Despite his brave efforts, Utoikamanu will sadly miss the final-round clash against Manly due to a separate head clash with the Roosters‘ Victor Radley. But his aspiring NRL career won’t stop there, with plans to represent Samoa in the end-of-year tests.
As for Waerea-Hargreaves, he is already slated to miss three matches including an upcoming grudge match with South Sydney. Depending on the results of the judiciary hearing, he may face an additional fine or a four-match suspension.
However, Api Koroisau himself appeared nonplussed by the incident after the game. Benji Marshall, the Tigers‘ coach who’s both played with and against the seasoned player, said that Waerea-Hargreaves’ conduct was out of line and that a 10-minutes penalty was absolutely deserved.