Referee ruling a head case
THE referees are back in the headlines after another contentious decision denied Penrith the opportunity to score a certain try in Friday night’s 13-6 semifinal loss to Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.
Brisbane winger Corey Oates collided with team-mate Anthony Milford and went flying into midair as a result of the sickening head knock that saw him taken from the field on a stretcher in the first half.
As a result of the heavy concussion suffered, Oates dropped the ball and allowed Penrith to pick up the scraps and run away for what looked like a certain try to Dean Whare.
However, the referees intervened to stop play such was the concern for Oates after the nasty collision, leaving Penrith fans up in arms having been denied the chance to register their first try when trailing 6-0 midway through the opening half.
The NRL gave referees discretionary powers to call time off when they implemented strict guidelines around head injuries to ensure the safety and welfare of the players.
There was a similar incident when Wests Tigers forward Joel Edwards was concussed in a tackle against the Storm at Leichhardt Oval in round four.
On that day, with the Tigers leading 14-0 on the stroke of halftime, Storm prop Nelson AsofaSolomona was allowed to pick up the spoils and score under the crossbar with a try that changed the momentum of a game Melbourne went on to win.
But on this occasion the referees didn’t afford Penrith the same opportunity, calling a halt to play after Sione Katoa put Whare into open space 30 metres away from the try line with no Broncos defender in sight.
‘‘I’ve got to be brutally honest, it
I’ve got to be brutally honest, it is play on. Mark Gasnier
is play on,’’ Mark Gasnier said during Fox Sports’ broadcast on Friday night.
‘‘That’s no disrespect to Corey’s welfare or anything like that but it is a collision sport. There are going to be a lot of Panthers fans blowing up because it actually is play on. They didn’t touch the football, there was no knock-on that occurred. The Brisbane player made the knock-on so it should have been play on.’’
Former Sharks hooker Michael Ennis said he agreed with Gasnier to a certain degree but could understand why the referees stopped play.
‘‘I know exactly where Gaz is at and he’s spot on,’’ Ennis said on Fox Sports.
‘‘There would be parochial Panthers fans out there living by the letter of the law saying ‘hang on’, that’s play on. But that noise is sickening. The incident was an accident and sickening. I thought the game stopped to some degree.’’
Oates played no further part in the match, however Milford managed to get back to his feet and play the remainder of the game. However the question remains, at what point is it correct for referees to put the welfare of a heavily concussed player ahead of the flow of the game? Either way, it will be Brisbane who will take on Melbourne next Friday night for the right to book a berth in this year’s grand final.