Stop play decision irks Fittler
PENRITH legend Brad Fittler has questioned whether NRL players will abuse the referees’ discretion to stop play for injury after the Corey Oates decision in Brisbane’s semifinal win.
Penrith were denied a nearcertain try early on Friday when play was stopped following a heavy collision between Oates and teammate Anthony Milford, with the Panthers racing away after scooping up the loose ball.
Fittler is adamant the referees made the wrong call, which came when the Broncos were leading 6-0.
“The facts point towards they made the wrong decision,” Fittler said.
“When the bloke (Sione Katoa) picked up the ball, he never touched the bodies. He just picked the ball up. So from that moment, the incident is no different where the game is stopped or Penrith is scoring.
“And that’s why the referees got it wrong, because there was no more danger to the player.”
Andrew Johns disagreed with Fittler and applauded the referees for prioritising Oates’ immediate welfare.
A bloodied Oates was taken from the field on a medi-cab with his neck in a brace and must pass concussion protocols this week if he is to play in Friday’s preliminary final against Melbourne.
“That hit and the noise of the hit, it shook the stadium. I thought Corey Oates was clearly injured,” Johns said.
“I applaud the referee for pulling it up. If we found out later, God forbid, that Corey Oates broke his neck or something – his instinct at that moment was ‘something bad’s happened’.”
Fittler feared the decision could pave the way for coaches to instruct players to feign injury and take advantage of the referees’ discretion to halt the match.
Queensland icon Wally Lewis said he too was surprised play was stopped immediately, but said a senior refereeing official was satisfied with the way the incident was handled.