Storm Nelson Asofa-Solomona high shot, Phil Gould on charge, Victor Radley, Jack Hetherington


Phil Gould says the NRL had no choice but to accept that Nelson Asofa-Solomona’s high shot punishment wasn’t heavy enough, but questioned whether a different response would’ve occurred initially if it was a player with a longer rap sheet.

NRL’s head of football Graham Annesley confirmed earlier this week the league didn’t agree with the match review committee’s decision to hand Asofa-Solomona just a $1000 fine, with no suspension, for his high shot on Makahesi Makatoa.

At the time of the incident, Asofa-Solomona was allowed to remain on the field before the MRC charged him with only a grade-one careless high tackle.

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Gould, a former premiership-winning coach who’s now the football boss at the Bulldogs, said it was important the NRL took ownership of the mistake to hand a light punishment, even though the MRC acts independently.

“It’s unfair to ask me that because the Bulldogs are playing the Storm this week, so whatever I say, people are going to say I’m biased,” Gould told Wide World of Sports’ Six Tackles With Gus.

“I think the commentary [on the incident] has been fairly accurate with what’s happened, and the league has admitted it was probably an error.

“They’ve got to admit it’s an error because if you make that the standard going forward, then you’re back in dangerous territory.

“It’s one of those little anomalies. Someone in the Bunker and someone in the match review committee decided that’s what it was worth, it was a fine. I think he can consider himself fortunate, move on, that’s the way it goes.

“The league have had to admit it was probably the wrong penalty because they don’t want that being used in evidence in other peoples’ cases… we had blokes sent from the field for sin bins in the first couple of weeks for innocuous, innocuous contacts – if they made contact.”

Gould questioned whether the incident would’ve been judged differently had it occurred to a player with a history of on-field indiscretions such as Roosters lock Victor Radley, among others.

In the case of Radley, he infamously missed eight games through suspension last year. He served five matches for two high tackles against Brisbane in May and a three-game ban for a charge-down against the Broncos in August.

“Not only was it weird once [the Asofa-Solomona incident], it was weird twice,” Gould added.

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“It was weird that it wasn’t picked up at the game and dealt with, and it’s weird that having then been picked up, that it wasn’t dealt with from a match review committee perspective.

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“Had that been Victor Radley, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jack Hetherington or Jaydn Su’A, some of those other players, I just wonder what the reaction might have been.”

Gould also spoke on the six-week ban handed down to Newcastle forward Mitchell Barnett, who on the weekend was sent off for an off-ball hit on Penrith’s Chris Smith.

“It was a funny one because we just don’t see that anymore,” Gould said.

“I can’t imagine that if he hit him really hard, he didn’t break his jaw. And had he broken his jaw, what the reaction might’ve been.

“I can only think it was a bit of a nudge, but it was just a silly thing to do… I think six weeks is enough.”

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