UPDATED: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that LO’D is the most suspended man in NRL history. I’ve been relaibly informed this is far from the truth. Twitter almanac @bondiroosters reliably informs this writer that John Hopoate is the most suspended man in NRL history with 45 games, and Luke has only just now reached the top five. Apologies to LO’D and anyone who read the previous version for this.
Luke O’Donnell will miss the remainder of the NRL regular season through suspension after he took the early guilty plea for a Grade 3 Dangerous Throw charge on Wests Tigers’ Tim Simona on Monday night.
The three-game suspension means the fiery front-rower will be back in time for the first game of the finals. The Roosters have not named his replacement to take on the Sharks, but Dylan Napa seems the likely candidate to get more minutes in the front row, with Tinirau Arona a possibility to snare the vacant spot on the bench.
In a vacuum, this suspension is fair and perhaps a little on the lenient side. Simona was flipped into the air and — had he not extended his arm to save himself — could have been the next Jarrod McCracken.
That needs to be remembered in all this: our arguments about consistency and players being unfairly targeted should never take away from the need to rid the game of these kinds of tackles once and for all. They are horrible to see and the potential for something to go horribly wrong is literally at arms length.
But we don’t live in a vacuum. We follow a sport whereby some players get off, and others don’t.
The NRL, in charging and suspending O’Donnell and not charging Cooper Cronk for the below tackle back in the Roosters-Storm game in Round 11, has opened itself up to criticism of favouring certain teams over others, and certain players over others:
Loyal 26 Rounds junkie “DMW” wrote an email to the NRL questioning why Cronk was not even charged for the above tackle. He received the following response:
Further to our conversation this afternoon, I have clarification from Football Operations as to how the Match Review Committee reached their decision.
The Match Review Committee ruled on the incident and did not believe it warranted a charge. While the player was lifted into a position of concern, it was their opinion that it was not to a degree that warranted a charge especially considering the player landed on his shoulder and not on his head or neck.
Well, with that bizarre logic, O’Donnell should not have been charged as Simona landed on his side.
The very fact that Cronk apparently had no case to answer on this befuddles this writer, and the fact it happened during Origin time is enough to fuel whatever conspiracy theories abound with regards to “bias” and “favouritism”.
This writer acknowledges these two tackles are not the same tackle, as one seems unintentional and one is clearly a brain fart.
But they both have equal potential for a horrible accident, and both are the easiest way to end at a conclusion punctuated with possible paralysis.
If they wanted to send a message on spear tackles, it should have started following the Melbourne-Roosters clash, when Cronk — accidentally or not — drove Roger Tuivasa-Sheck into the turf. In fact, it would have been a stronger message had they chosen to charge Cronk, one of the poster boys for the NRL.
They didn’t have to wait until the 23rd round of the season.