Sia Soliola of the Canberra Raiders has been handed a five-week ban for his hit on the Melbourne Storm’s Billy Slater.
This means that he will miss all but the last game of the 2017 NRL Premiership competition for what was described as a horror tackle on Slater. Soliola pled guilty to dangerous contact, which involved a late, high shot to the head of Slater.
The contact knocked Slater out, requiring him to ride the cart off the field. There is some reason to think that the length of Soliola’s ban was influenced by whom he hit and the team involved.
Soliola’s defense argued that the hit was careless, not reckless, only deserving of a three-week ban, but the line between careless and reckless can be blurry at times.
The former Kiwi s international will be eligible to play the final game of the season, which as anyone who appreciates irony can predict, will be against the Strom.
The Raiders can ill afford any sort of misstep at this point in the season. They are currently the occupants of the number 10 rung on the NRL ladder and they need to be firing on all cylinders to earn a spot in the top eight.
The game seemed to be a microcosm of bad decisions. The refs for the game did not send Soliola off and the Senior NRL review official, Bernard Sutton, was dropped by referees boss Tony Archer, along with review and assistant ref Chris Butler. Lead on-field official Matt Cecchin, for the moment at least, was let off entirely.
The Soliola – Slater incident is the latest example of the near impossible task the NRL has placed on the shoulders of its officiating crews, with every penalty and non-penalty call being subjected to intense after-the-fact review.
Being an NRL ref has very much turned into a damned if you do, damned if you do not.