The age old debate resurfaces once again!
The 2016 NRL season has seen the Cronulla Sharks emerge as genuine title contenders. This being their best squad the shire club has assembled in years, featuring the brilliance of a dynamic ball-playing forward pack combined with an energetic and creative backline, has seen the Sharks steamroll through the competition, currently on a 10 match winning streak.
Gone are the years of drug scandals and off-field player indiscretions that reeked havoc on the shire club. However, through those tough years one man has battled through. A man who has demanded State of Origin selection by leading the charge for a rampant Sharks side. After battling for nine years, the reward of a Blues jumper was destined to fall into the hands of Wade Graham, after an injury to Boyd Cordner ruled him out of Game II.
And so it did ...
The Sharks back-rower was given the nod to earn his State of Origin debut in the cauldron of Suncorp Stadium. However, moments after he was announced in the Blues starting side, disaster struck as Graham was put on report for a 'clothes-line' tackle on Queensland half-back Johnathan Thurston. Subsequently, Graham was handed a Grade One careless high tackle charge and with carry-over points was slapped with a one match suspension ultimately ruling him out of Origin II unless he successfully beats the charge at the judiciary.
The age old debate of player suspensions in 'big games' has resurfaced once again. Should a player, who has worked hard all their life, to achieve a dream that has haunted them for years, miss a potential career changing game for what has been described as a minor incident in the grand scheme of things.
Surely sanity prevails?
It did only months ago when Justin Hodges successfully won his case at the judiciary and was able to play in the 2015 NRL decide or when Josh Reynolds successfully downgraded his charge in 2014 and went onto lead the Blues to their first series win in almost a decade. The same can't be said though for Cameron Smith (2008) and Issac Luke (2014) who were both rubbed out of their respective Grand Finals, thanks to the flaws in the NRL judiciary system. Both Smith and Luke have gone on record to say missing a game like the magnitude of a Grand Final has and will continue to haunt them for the rest of their careers.
By no means are we saying that a player shouldn’t be suspended for breaking the rules of the game. If a player intentionally goes out to injury someone then by all means the law enforcers of the game should throw the book at them. However, in situations as such involving the likes of Graham, Luke and Smith cooler heads should have prevailed and only judged an incident on its merits and disregard incidents of the past, especially for high-profile games like Origin or an NRL Grand Final.
The system is at fault and making a player sit on the sideline for a career changing game due to carry over points is a farce and makes a mockery of the process.