Andrew Johns’s two week suspension is probably the correct
penalty for swearing at a touch judge – but the events leading to last night’s
decision are, quite frankly, on the nose. I give absolutely no weight whatsoever to his
“mournful” apology read out before the Judiciary, sent to the touch judge, and
probably to be delivered to letterboxes all over NSW! But the Judiciary
listened, reduced his punishment and made evident its shortcomings by doing so.

Yet the most troubling aspect of this whole saga
evolves around Johns’s high profile manager John Fordham and his use of the
media.

In a column in Wednesday’s Telegraph (for which Johns
writes), and a front page lead story, Fordham said Johns could walk away
from the NRL if banished for the rest of the season. Indicating that Johns
would move to UK Super League – which has been speculated about for some time –
Fordham said, that “the NRL can ill afford to drive its number one drawcard away from
playing the game in this country”.

Given the pro-Johns line appeared on pages one, two, 20 (lead editorial), 21 (lead opinion article), sports
pages 68 and 69 and the back page of the Telegraph yesterday, even a judiciary
comprising ex-football players would not have missed the message.

But it didn’t end there. Fordham not only manages
league players, but also a stable of “celebrities” including John Laws – who demanded
a lesser penalty for his friend “Joey” this week on his 2UE program.

There is also another major flaw with the judiciary
process. Had Johns pleaded guilty, without seeking a downgrading of the
offence, he would have been suspended for three matches (including one semi-final match).
By seeking a downgrade, even with a guilty plea, Johns effectively told the
Judiciary to either downgrade the charge and give him two matches, or to leave it
unchanged, automatically increasing the suspension to four matches (including two
semi-finals).

That is why the judiciary process is flawed. Even
if the panel believed three weeks was spot on, they couldn’t have offered it
after the appeal.

Peter Fray

Save up to 50% on a year of Crikey.

This extraordinary year is almost at an end. But we know that time waits for no one, and we won’t either. This is the time to get on board with Crikey.

For a limited time only, choose what you pay for a year of Crikey.

Save up to 50% or dig deeper so we can dig deeper.

See you in 2021.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

SAVE 50%