After last night’s second State of Origin match, one wonders what a player has to do to get sent off these days.
Having pile driven Darius Boyd into the turf with a spear tackle, New South Wales forward Luke O’Donnell somehow managed to be allowed to stay on the field and complete the match.
Not only did he indulge in a spear tackle, but in the ensuing melee he decided it prudent to headbutt Dave Taylor and then when others were holding Taylor back trying to prevent this particular part of the melee from continuing O’Donnell then decided to partake in the low act of throwing a left hook at Taylor.
Which one would have thought would have been enough to earn his marching orders from referees Tony Archer and Shayne Hayne. Apparently not.
In Rugby League in the last two weeks we have seen that it is now okay to not only throw someone head first into the turf, but, also, to headbutt others to your heart’s content. Oh sure, O’Donnell has been suspended for three weeks for the spear tackle. But, surely there comes the time when an incident on the field is so bad that a player deserves to be sent off. And this was one of the worst tackles of this type that you will see on a football field.
Some will say that O’Donnell did not do it deliberately. But, that is not the point. What is, regardless of whether it was intentional or not, is that one day someone is going to end up paralysed and a quadriplegic because of an act of stupidity of the sort seen last night on O’Donnell’s part.
There comes a time when referees have to have the courage to send players off when an incident is as serious as this was, regardless of what the connotations of their decision are for the outcome of the match. And this most certainly was that time. If the tackle wasn’t (it was) enough to send O’Donnell off, surely with the headbutt also coming into calculations, that would have tipped the referees decision. Amazingly, they decided against this course of action. And unfortunately, one suspects that they did not want to affect such a big occasion by making the game thirteen against twelve.
Despite Jarrod Hayne being let off at the judiciary two weeks ago for a headbutt because he was deemed not to be deliberately intending to injure, anyone who saw O’Donnell headbutt Taylor could see that there was intent there. Which, going on the logic of the judiciary means that O'Donnell should have been charged for the headbutt. And to top it all off he then throws a punch at a player who wasn’t able to defend himself. If all this does not amount to a send off offence, then the world really has gone mad.
What is even worse with this whole situation is that because Hayne was found not guilty of headbutting, O’Donnell has got away with his headbutt and not been charged for it. So now the judiciary have intrinsically stated that it is open season for players in the NRL indulge their inner thug. And you just know that he would not have gone through with the head butt if Hayne had been punished for it.
With players such as O’Donnell, this is only an invitation for them to show how tough they think they are. Perhaps O’Donnell doesn’t realise what true toughness is. It certainly isn’t head butting others, nor is it throwing punches at players unable to defend themselves. Thuggery isn’t toughness; it is simply an opportunity to show everyone how weak you really are.
Queensland showed us all what real toughness is, last night. A team that is confident in their ability to achieve the goals they have set themselves doesn’t have to try and intimidate the opposition with illegal violence. What they will do instead is come out and put some added sting into their defence in a legitimate way. And they showed this in their first two defensive sets last night where they continually had three or four players in the tackle driving the ball carrier back several metres. They didn’t just tackle the ball carrier either; they pummelled them each time. And they kept doing until they had knocked the spirit out of their opposition.
Queensland came out from the kick off and competed at a higher intensity than a normal NRL match and showed us all what being tough is about. New South Wales on the other hand didn’t lift their intensity levels above what they would during a club game. Instead some of them, led by O’Donnell, thought that they could intimidate through the use of violence.
Maybe one day they’ll learn that it just doesn’t work. Because if they don’t, they will lose the next five series, too.
And as long as players of the ilk of O’Donnell insist on resorting to illegal tactics, then the referees should get tough and do the game a favour by sending them off.