Ref­eree rul­ing a head case

Sunday Star-Times - - SPORT - MICHAEL CHAMMAS

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.

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