Rugby League: Lenient ban does game no credit

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The Independent Online
THE credibility of the game's international disciplinary procedures has suffered a severe blow with the suspension of Barrie McDermott, the Wigan prop, for a mere two matches.

McDermott was found guilty yesterday of a reckless high tackle on Paul Sironen in Saturday's match with Australia. Although undetected by referee and touch judges, the tackle was as bad as they come, a raised elbow to Sironen's jaw causing the player to be taken off with concussion.

Although McDermott has also been fined a record pounds 1,000, the lenient ban means that he will be able to make his international debut, if selected from the 20-man squad, in the first Test at Wembley on 22 October.

Wigan's matches at Workington tonight and against Salford on Sunday will neatly take care of the ban. To cynics, it is a predictable outcome, but it is one that does the game no credit.

The three-man panel, consisting of the former Rugby League chairman, Bob Ashby, one of its directors, Harry Jepson, and the Wigan chairman, Jack Robinson, has sent out all the wrong signals to players.

There must be questions asked about the logic of having a panel of three Englishmen, although the Australian manager, Geoff Carr, and Sironen were present.

'The player has been found guilty. So as far as we're concerned that is the end of the issue,' said Carr, who predicted that there would be no reprisals against McDermott if he faces Australia again.

McDermott, a hugely promising 22-year-old who has made rapid progress since joining Wigan from Oldham this summer, defended his tackle as careless rather than malicious. Part of his excuse was that he is blind in one eye.

Two regular Australian props bid for a Test place at Castleford tonight. Paul Harragon, whose tackle on Ian Lucas two years ago was, ironically, responsible for a change in the rules to allow players to be cited after internationals, plays his first tour match after completing a suspension he brought with him from Australia, while Glenn Lazarus returns after a groin injury sustained in the first Tour match against Cumbria.

They will face Lee Crooks, the vastly experienced Castleford forward who was hoping for a recall to the Great Britain squad and is now left with a point to prove. Castleford will be without Tony Smith and Tawera Nikau.

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