Two of rugby league’s most powerful men, Laurie Daley and Phil Gould, have united to condemn the NRL judicial system over the handling of the shoulder charge debacle.
Canberra fullback Jack Wighton will be free to play Cronulla in Saturday’s qualifying final after being cleared of a grade two shoulder charge at the NRL judiciary on Tuesday night.
Faced with a four-week ban, Wighton challenged the match review committee’s charge, with the judiciary taking just five minutes to exonerate him.
NSW coach Laurie Daley said that confidence in the match review committee and judiciary had evaporated and called for an overhaul of the process.
“No one’s got any confidence in it and I think a lot of people are confused about what constitutes dangerous contact, what constitutes a shoulder charge,” Daley told News Corp.
“There’s a lot of things a lot of people are disappointed in. There’s no faith there and I think it needs a rehaul.
“They need to get the powers-that-be into the room at the end of the year and go through it and review it and make some massive changes.”
The MRC was roundly condemned for charging Wighton for his hit on Wests Tigers’ Joel Edwards yet clearing Cronulla hooker Michael Ennis for what appeared to be a similar incident.
The NRL went to the trouble of releasing a statement outlining why the Raiders No.1 had been charged but Ennis was let off the hook for his challenge on Melbourne’s Cheyse Blair.
NRL MRC co-ordinator Michael Buettner argued there was a “clear difference” and that Ennis had not tucked his arm into his side as he braced for contact while Wighton had.
Penrith general manager and Nine Network commentator Phil Gould said the episode had “embarrassed the code”.
“The people that are doing this have absolutely no idea what they’re doing,” Gould told Sky Sports Radio’s Big Sports Breakfast.
“I fear for the future of the game with the people that we have in charge at the moment. Honestly.”
While glad Wighton had been cleared, Gould said the result had muddied the waters and many players would be wondering why they had not contested their charges.