North Queensland are fuming over the “weak cheap shot” which floored star prop James Tamou in their World Club Challenge thrashing of Leeds, pointing to the ‘one punch can kill’ campaign as proof the NRL has made the right choice in outlawing the biff.
Tamou was levelled by a swift right hook thrown by former Brisbane and Melbourne forward Mitch Garbutt as the Cowboys’ 38-4 victory turned nasty in the final ten minutes.
Garbutt, who was slugged with a two-match suspension by the RFL Judiciary on Monday, reacted after Tamou had slapped his Leeds teammate Keith Galloway after a tackle – an action Leeds coach Brian McDermott admitted wasn’t justified.
While McDermott was disappointed in his young player, who was sent off, Cowboys co-captains Matt Scott and Johnathan Thurston were livid.
“It was a cheap shot. He wasn’t looking at him (Garbutt) he was looking at Keith,” said Scott.
“We haven’t seen it in the NRL because we’ve stamped out that sort of stuff.
“I don’t think it is tough. It is pretty weak to punch someone in the face when they are not looking at you.
“It was pretty ordinary. (Tamou and Galloway) are the ones going to and fro.”
Former NRL chief executive Dave Smith faced stiff opposition as he led the campaign to outlaw punching in the NRL following the 2013 State of Origin series when NSW captain Paul Gallen twice hit Queensland’s Nate Myles.
Scott threw his support behind the ruling, pointing to boxer Danny Green’s ‘one punch can kill’ campaign as reason enough to not bring fighting back into rugby league.
“Rugby league is a tough game and we don’t want to see the toughness out of it,” he said.
“But stuff like that… there’s too much research on it.
“We have seen away from rugby league the ‘one punch can kill’ advertising.
“There’s a reason we are trying to get it out of the game. There’s other ways to be tough.
“It is a good move we have gotten rid of it.”
Tamou accepted an apology from Garbutt after the match after the contrite prop fronted the Cowboys’ dressing room after the match to offer an olive branch.
But Thurston remained unsettled by the incident.
“You could clearly see that (Tamou) was looking at big Keithy,” he said.
“The hit from the side … it’s not good.”