NEWCASTLE RL players who throw punches could soon be facing mandatory stints in the sin-bin

KURRI v CENTRAL MELEE – STARTS 8.20NEWCASTLE Rugby League players who throw punches could soon be facing mandatory stints in the sin-bin.

Newcastle RL general manager Matt Harris said a crackdown on fighting would be discussed at a board meeting next week, after a season-opening melee between Kurri and Central Newcastle last weekend.

MELEE: Tempers flare in last week’s clash between Kurri and Central. Screen grab courtesy of BarTV.

No players were charged by the match-review panel, but the Newcastle RL disciplinary committee has issued Kurri and Central with notices for breaching the melee policy.

The two clubs will be given the option of contesting the breach notices by Monday or accepting them, in which case they can potentially minimise any sanctions by imposing their own punishments on offending players.

NO LOVE LOST: A difference of opinions in a 2015 clash between Macquarie and Lakes United. Picture: Simone De Peak

Harris said the judiciary felt “there wasn’t sufficient videoevidence” to charge anyone, but he confirmed punches were exchanged, although they were not captured byBarTV visionof the incident.

“There were some things that happened in the back of play, off camera,’’ Harris said.

“There have obviously been some punches thrown. That happened a couple of times, but it was difficult to identify who was at main fault.’’

Harris said the melee policy was brought in two seasons ago “to put some responsibility back on the clubs”, but perhaps it was time to fall in line with the National Rugby League, which outlawed punching after a 2013 State of Origin fight between Paul Gallen and Nate Myles.

“We need to consider, as a competition, if automatic sin-binning for punches is something that we want to do as well,’’ Harris said. “That will probably be discussed next week – is it something we need to introduce?

“It’s not a rule that we are required to implement. It’s a rule that we can, but it’s not a compulsory rule, even though it does exist at the NRL level.

“It’s doesn’t necessarily have to exist in Country Rugby League or lower competitions. Our board are considering those types ofoptions and it may be something we take to the clubs to consider.

“But also we need to get some feedback from the referees, and see if they are in favour of it as well.’’

Harris said“from time to time unsavoury things will happen”, because rugby league is a physical sport.

“But if we need to change the rules because of an incident, we will,’’ he said.“If it makes the game better and safer, we’ll learn from what happens on the field and implement rules and policies that improve things.

“Whatever we put in place won’t stop everything. That’s just being realistic.’’

The Newcastle RL initially resisted copying the NRL’s no-punching crackdown, instead introducing a melee policy in the hope that would prevent one-on-one confrontations from escalating.

“We saidto the clubs, we’ll work with you but this culture of fighting and having blues on the field can’t be in our game,’’ Harrissaid.

“That’s the idea of the melee policy. Obviously if we see something serious, players can be individually charged.

“But weputa fair bit of responsibility back on the clubs. We’ve had clubs in the past that have stood players down for being involved in a fight, and we’ve supported that stance.They took stern action and that reflected positively on the penalty we imposed on the clubs.’’

Breaching the melee policy can result in fines or, at worst, loss of competition points.

Two players, Central’s Nathan Taylorand Kurri’s Jayden Young, were sin-binnedafter Saturday’s melee atKurri Sportsground, which leftCentral forward Jake Finn witha season-ending knee injury.

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