Jeff
Wall writes:

It has taken just the first round of the
NRL premiership for one of the unresolved issues of 2005 to revisit the game.
You guessed it – the judiciary process.

The Sydney Roosters will decide today
whether to challenge the “careless high tackle” charge and grading given to
Adrian Morley, or plead guilty and cop an automatic two-week suspension. If
he pleads not guilty, or seeks a downgrading of the charge, but is later found
guilty, he will get a three-week suspension.

The Roosters believe there is an injustice
in this process. The Roosters believe he is innocent (not a widely shared view)
and if they decide to try and prove it they risk a two-week ban becoming a
three-week ban.

His alleged victim, Ben Walker, and his
club, the Rabbitohs, will see an injustice here. If the charge is proven, and
Morley gets three weeks, it will still cost Walker four weeks –
because that’s how long he will be out with the injury suffered in the incident.

Whatever the outcome, there will be unhappy
players and officials, not to mention fans.

The process would be fairer, and receive
fewer complaints, if cases such as Morley’s (who has been suspended nine
times since 2001) went straight to the judiciary without a grading. That would mean the judiciary would be free
to impose any penalty it wanted if Morley was found guilty.

I believe that every case of a player who
is sent from the field, or cited, should be judged in an open tribunal – with the
media present – and the charge judged solely on its merits, with the penalty
befitting the offence, taking into account the record of the offender.

But if that is too time consuming then the
more serious offences, and repeat offenders, should be put through an open
judiciary process regardless. Morley would fall into that category.

The AFL, which just a year
ago adopted the NRL judiciary process “lock stock and barrel” has already made
substantial changes to the process for 2006. The NRL has made minor changes (mainly to
do with the loadings for prior offences) but it needs to go much, much further
– and soon.

Peter Fray

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