Furious Canberra legend Jason Croker has accused the NRL of bias against the Raiders, after Jack Wighton was controversially cited for a shoulder charge.
A key figure in the Green Machine’s charge to the top two, Wighton’s season could be over if found guilty of the grade two offence.
He faces a ban of up to four games after becoming the latest to fall foul of the NRL’s crackdown on the controversial tackle.
The star fullback’s citation came on Monday, shortly after the league launched its final series at Allianz Stadium, and a day after Cronulla rake Michael Ennis avoided censure over an apparently similar tackle on Melbourne’s Blake Green.
That left Croker, who played 318 games for the Raiders from 1991-2006 and was a part of their last premiership-winning side in 1994, fuming.
“I don’t know what they’re thinking because that’s just ridiculous,” he told AAP.
“I know there’s a duty of care for players but Joel (Edwards) was fine.
“I don’t think they’re too fond of the Raiders – they always get shafted, the poor bastards.
“We’re pretty one-eyed down here but they do get the raw end, there’s no doubt about that. The 50-50 calls often go against them. It’s just disappointing.
“They’ve got to contest it, haven’t they?
“Common sense has got to prevail but I don’t know if they’ve got it down there (at the NRL).”
In issuing its match review committee findings, the league took the unusual step of explaining what it saw as the differences between the Wighton and Ennis tackles.
Match Review Committee Coordinator Michael Buettner said “there was a clear difference in the tackle performed by Sharks hooker Michael Ennis who was not charged and the Wighton tackle”.
“We look for three key indicators when determining whether a shoulder charge has been made,” Buettner said.
1. The upper arm of the defender must be tucked in to his side at contact
2. The defender is making no attempt to wrap in the tackle with both arms
3. There is forceful contact by the defender to any part of the body of the attacking player.”
The NRL also issued photos to illustrate its point.
“If all three of these indicators are clearly identified in an incident then a player will be charged with a shoulder charge.
“In the case of Michael Ennis, its very clear that the left arm of Ennis is away from his body and not tucked into his side.
“So no charge was laid.
“In the Wighton incident the MRC was satisfied that all three indicators were present and so a charge has been laid.”
Canberra declined to comment when contacted by AAP.
They have until midday on Tuesday to respond to the charge.
The club is expected to elect to have Wighton’s case heard by the judiciary.
If Wighton is found not guilty he will be free to play in Saturday’s qualifying final against Cronulla at GIO Stadium. If guilty his season will be over.
If the charge is downgraded by the judiciary he will miss two matches.