The Kangaroos’ Willie Mason was last night handed a one-week suspension and a $5,000 fine for his knockout punch on Great Britain’s Stuart Fielden – but it is the administrators of the game who have ended up with the red face as a result.
Mason’s initial plea that he was acting in “self-defence” was never going to wash, but his post-judiciary comment is embarrassingly close to the mark. “In the light of previous incidents, I’m very surprised by tonight’s result,” Mason said.
The “previous incidents” referred to include several blatant examples of illegal and dangerous play in earlier tri-nations games, incidents that were not even reported to the judiciary! And several – including at least one involving serial offender, Adrian Morley – were at least as bad as the Mason punch.
Just as the International Cricket Council’s credibility has been shot to pieces over the Darrel Hair fiasco, the International Rugby League Board has lost credibility over the question of illegal play during the current tri-nations series.
At the start of the series, the judiciary “history” of all players was wiped clean. What kind of a message did that send to players?
They certainly got the “message” because rough play that would result in a certain judiciary appearance – if not a send-off – in the NRL premiership has been shamelessly tolerated – until media and other pressure forced the administrators to charge Mason.
We’re not condoning Mason’s haymaker, by the way. We’d just like to see some consistency.
Meanwhile there is life in the series itself thanks to the Poms’ comprehensive win over the Kangaroos on Saturday night.
The Australian Rugby League, and the Kangaroos’ coach, who complained monotonously about the eligibility of Nathan Fein to play for the Kiwis, may get poetic justice. The decision to take the winning points off the Kiwis gives Great Britain a stronger chance of making the final.
And if they do, on the basis of last Saturday night’s game, then the Poms will give the Kangaroos more than a run for their money – and the Judiciary some more work to do, if the game happens to feels like worrying about violence on the day.