The National Rugby League runs the risk of looking like it’s overreacting to the attack on aspects of the game by the
Melbourne Storm CEO, Brian Waldron.
The NRL has hit the Storm with a $15,000
breach notice – which won’t have much of an impact because it will be
added on to the club’s already substantial debt.
The main focus of the NRL’s anger at
Waldron’s comments is on his claim that the club has lost faith in the NRL
judiciary system. Hello! Hardly a day goes by when a politician
or “shock jock” isn’t tearing strips off Judge A or Magistrate B over
penalties – and they do so with impunity.
But rugby league’s judiciary – and the ARL Tribunal – are a protected
species. Any criticism attracts an instant penalty. Fortunately, rugby union is
less precious – otherwise breach notices would be falling like confetti after
the response to the George Gregan fiasco.
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What Waldron did, in a fairly wide-ranging
attack that included a broadside at Channel Nine, was question the judiciary
But there is a difference here that the NRL
has overlooked. It is one thing to attack the system and quite something else to
attack judiciary panel members. Indeed, he specifically said in today’s
Herald Sun that he is not questioning the integrity of the judiciary panel.
Sure, he attacked the attitude towards the
Storm’s place in the game – but that hardly warrants the heavy hand of the NRL.
The Storm is not the first club to claim it’s been targeted, unpopular or unwanted.
The Broncos used it for motivation, as the Maroons have done so for a
Whether or not you agree with the seven
week suspension the Storm’s Billy Slater was handed, or the nine week ban the
club’s Michael Crocker “accepted” this week, there is no doubt the way the
judiciary penalty system operates should be open to criticism.
Slapping a fine on the Melbourne Storm will
not make that fact, nor the Melbourne Storm’s claims of bias, go away.