The irony of this will not be lost on rugby league
readers I am sure – there can be no doubt the Sydney Swans captain, Barry Hall,
is a “victim” of the National Rugby League’s discredited judiciary
system.

When the AFL inexplicably – and I said so at the time –
adopted the NRL judiciary system “lock stock and barrel” it adopted a system
that is fraught with inconsistency and essential unfairness. And nowhere is that inconsistency more evident than it
is with regard to the provision that has given Hall a one week suspension for a
“striking” incident that would have attracted no more than a penalty in rugby
league (and some referees might have let him off with a
caution).

And if the Swans are smart they will get on the phone
today to the Sydney barrister, Geoff Bellew, who has
easily the best record in representing players before the NRL judiciary (he has
actually secured a couple of not guilty verdicts) and understands the nuances in
the NRL judiciary system, and the AFL judiciary system, better than
anyone.

The irony for league fans is that the best chance the
AFL has had in years to make a real impact in Sydney – by way of the Swans winning a
premiership – has been put at risk by rugby league’s judiciary
process. And NRL club officials will be watching the Hall case
with great interest – especially if the Swans do what no NRL club has had the
gumption to do and take the whole process before the Supreme Court of
NSW.

And while I am not a lawyer (as readers will well know)
I won’t be at all surprised if a court case results in a total victory for the
Swans and Barry Hall. And if it happens it will be a triumph for rugby league
as well – because the NRL judiciary process will have to be reviewed to take
account of the court’s ruling.

The process the NRL and the AFL embrace is deeply
flawed. It is contrary to the principles of our justice system – and those
principles must apply to sporting tribunals as much as they do to the criminal
courts. And I fear that sometime today or tomorrow Swans fans
are about to find out just how unfair it is – unless the Swans are
prepared to bite the bullet and challenge the process before the courts of
law.

Peter Fray

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