Benji Marshall says it’s high time the NRL introduced a fine system for misdemeanours so players like Wade Graham don’t miss career-changing matches for minor offences.
Marshall “unfortunately” expects Graham to be found guilty of a grade-one careless high tackle on North Queensland and Maroons superstar Johnathan Thurston at the NRL judiciary on Wednesday night – and therefore ruled out of Origin II in Brisbane.
“Contact with the head was there for everyone to see and that’s probably what’s not going to get him off,” Marshall said on Fox Sports’ NRL 360.
But the former world player of the year – who has never had the chance to play Origin because he’s a Kiwi – believes Graham’s punishment, if the Cronulla star’s legal team can’t get him off, doesn’t fit the crime.
“It brings back the debate – and we’ve brought this up more than twice on our show – with the fine system for a low-grade charge because we can’t have people missing big games like grand finals and an Origin over something minor that didn’t effect the outcome of that game,” Marshall said.
Graham’s Sharks teammate Michael Ennis pointed out that Issac Luke also missed South Sydney’s drought-breaking grand final triumph over Canterbury in 2014 and that Cameron Smith was suspended from Melbourne’s 2008 grand final loss to Manly because of similarly low-grade offences.
Ennis posed the question to the NRL: “Why can’t we change it?
“The consensus surely is out there that the majority of people would agree.
“It would really benefit the game.”
Ennis also fears Graham, a long-time Origin shadow player, will be banned and, coming off his ASADA-led suspension in 2014 following the Sharks’s supplement scandal, says the 25-year-old will be devastated.
“He’ll be be gutted. He’ll be absolutely gutted,” Ennis said.
“He’s obviously had a rough couple of years and, since he’s come back, his form’s been exceptional and finally he’s been given the (Origin) green light, which we’ve all been waiting for.
“Wade Graham, in those tough years playing for Cronulla when they were struggling, had he have played for a Brisbane or a South Sydney or a Melbourne, I think he would have played anywhere between eight and 10 Origins.”