In one of the more extraordinary events
since rugby league fully embraced video technology, the St George Illawarra
Dragons captain, Trent Barrett, faces up to eight weeks suspension thanks to
the “diligence” of a Channel Nine tape operator.

Yesterday morning, a Channel Nine staffer
was going over the tapes of the Knights v Dragons game when he came across a
previously unseen angle shot of an incident
in which Barrett “tackled” the Knights winger, Brian Carney.

The new angle clearly shows Barrett using a
forearm to Carney’s head. The camera angles used during the game (and in
replays since) did not show up the incident at all, and over the weekend none
of the commentaries I heard suggested Barrett had done anything wrong.

Nine gave the tape to the NRL yesterday
morning, and within hours, Barrett was charged with a grade five striking
charge – a very serious offence. If he pleads guilty he will get a six week
suspension, if he challenges it and loses he’ll get eight.

Two issues arise. Where were the touch
judges when the incident took place? Is it right for Nine, or Fox Sports, or anyone
else, to “report” a player when the incident has been missed by all the
officials – including the video review adjudicator, Graham McCallum?

The second issue is a more complex one.
Does, for example, Channel Nine, have more cameras and more advanced technology
at games than Fox does? Does that mean players who are in games shown by Nine
are going to be subject to greater scrutiny than players in the five games
shown only by Fox?

On the basis of the new evidence, Barrett
deserves to be in serious trouble, but is it fair that he is in trouble for
effectively being dobbed in by a Channel Nine employee?

Well, it happens in AFL. Contentious incidents
are replayed within moments of occurring, from multiple angles, with
commentators making all sorts of judgements about whether the match review
panel will look at them.

One recent case involving Nine commentator
Garry Lyon and Essendon runner Paul Dimattina resulted in the latter being suspended,
raising the question, where does the line between broadcaster and judiciary
actually sit?

This is a debate rugby league needs to
have.

Peter Fray

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