Not for the first time, the credibility of the NRL judiciary will be on the line tonight when the Newcastle Knights’ Danny Buderis tries to have a level three “dangerous throw” charge downgraded.
The Knights are seeking to have the charge downgraded to a level one offence that would mean a two-week suspension instead of the six weeks he now faces for a grade three offence.
If the Knights continue winning, a grade one offence would bring him back in time for the grand final.
Since the NRL was established in 1999, six players have won downgrading on dangerous throw charges. But none have had the charge reduced by more than one grade.
The credibility factor comes into play for two reasons. Firstly, if Buderis wins any downgrading, a lot of fans, and commentators, will need to book an appointment with their optometrist.
The incident with which he has been charged looked bad and numerous replays have not changed that. A number of radio and television commentators calling the game between the Knights and the Sea Eagles believed it warranted Buderis being sent off, and not just put on report.
But since then, some of the comments about the seriousness of the offence have been irrational. One radio announcer even called for any suspension to be served next season!
But even more worrying is today’s Sydney Morning Herald piece suggesting that the rules regarding suspensions will be “tweaked” – the writer must have trouble spelling “trashed” – next season by making a suspension in the first two week of the finals count as “two games”, a suspension in the preliminary final count as “three games”, and a grand final suspension as “four games”.
Would the same rule apply to suspensions that impacted on State of Origin representation? Or even test matches? A silly idea, full stop.
Danny Buderis is not a dirty player, but he has been charged with a serious offence for which the NRL has made very clear it will hand out harsh penalties.
Six weeks – which he will get if he loses tonight – might be too high, but the credibility of the judiciary will be further eroded if a grade three (determined after detailed video scrutiny) becomes a grade one. Not even a judiciary that has been inconsistent too often will accept the Knights’ argument tonight!