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.

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