Unless the Knights can get the charge
downgraded, rugby league’s number one player, Andrew Johns, won’t reappear
until the second round of the semi-finals, if the Knights last that long.

In a tough message to all players, the NRL
has rated Johns’s swearing at touch judge as a grade three offence. By doing so
it just about guaranteed the end of his season: given the video/audio evidence
uncovered late yesterday even Perry Mason would struggle to get him off, or
even get the charge downgraded.

Some might regard the minimum three week
suspension – four if he contests the charge and loses – as heavy, but it takes
account of the fact that he has 93 carry-over penalty points from an earlier
offence.

Just to prove once again there are some NRL
players who will NEVER learn, the Bulldogs’ Tony Grimaldi was late yesterday on
the television news saying it’s OK for players to swear at touch judges when
they make a mistake. By last night Grimaldi had contacted the NRL to say his
comments had been taken out of context.

It seems rugby league players and politicians have
something in common – every comment that gets them into trouble is taken out of
context.

The practice of players swearing at officials
is not new, it’s just that it has been getting more frequent and more blatant.
Stopping Andrew Johns was imperative if the NRL hopes to reverse that trend.

But the real loser from the charging of
Johns is his club, the Newcastle Knights. The Knights are currently in sixth
place on 26 points and will pick up a certain two from a bye in the last round.
They play the Cowboys this weekend and the Panthers a week later.

So the Knights will certainly make the top
eight and they might even end up in the top four if they can down the under-performing
Cowboys in Townsville this weekend – even without Johns.

If Johns was playing, a third place finish
would be a distinct possibility. The price for a moment of stupidity might be a
high one.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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