Penalties for foul play need more bite to make game safer

Titans' Kevin Proctor is sent off by referee Henry Perenara for biting the forearm of Shaun Johnson of the Sharks. Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Titans' Kevin Proctor is sent off by referee Henry Perenara for biting the forearm of Shaun Johnson of the Sharks. Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

The Kevin Proctor biting case this week seemed to split people right down the middle, with those who were convinced he was guilty and those who thought he was innocent.

I was one of those in the latter group. On what I saw of the incident, I was confident he would get off. I had him as not guilty.

There was definitely pressure applied by Shaun Johnson's arm on Proctor's mouth. But in the vision I saw, I didn't see a real clamping down of his teeth or a chomping action, which is what I'd construe as a fair dinkum bite.

But I wasn't at the judiciary hearing to listen to more than two hours of evidence and look at every camera angle possible before making a call on it, and if the guys adjudicating on it believed there was some intent there, which they obviously did, then I'm happy to see him cop the four weeks.

In fact, I'd like to see the game go a bit harder when it comes to the penalties dished out for all forms of foul play.

I think it is great to see the game react by immediately bringing in tougher penalties for tackles like the crusher and various forms of the cannonball tackle.

Anything that makes players more aware and more cautious in their actions, that will ultimately make the game safer, is definitely the right way to go and stiffer penalties are the only real deterrent.

The crusher tackle has been stirring up some debate now for quite a few weeks because there have been more instances of it where, in some cases, unnecessary and dangerous pressure is put on the neck and head of a tackled player by a defender.

There is no risk this type of tackle could lead to a real catastrophe.

Yes, each case should be treated on its merits because I'd say the great majority of them are accidents and difficult to avoid, particularly, when the ball-carrier is backing back into tackles or spinning to try and find his front on the ground quickly.

But there have been some examples where a defender, after getting the ball-carrier in an awkward position, will make a second effort in squeezing down on the back of the head and neck.

They're the ones you want to see eradicated out of the game and the offender really punished heavily. I wouldn't be stopping there either.

Like I said, the way the third man into tackles spears in at the legs of the guy with the ball needs to be closely monitored as well because some of the actions of defenders in that instance are pretty dangerous as well.

Given the spate of concussions happening in the game now, I'd also be upping the penalties for careless and reckless swinging arms that connect with players' heads.

We have got a great product made even more exciting by the tweaking of the rules, but safety should remain top of the list when it comes to the players and their welfare.

If that means bringing in tougher penalties and rubbing the genuine offenders out for longer, then I'm all for it.

Round 15 Predictions


Melbourne has done a remarkable job despite losing some key players in recent weeks but I just have a feeling they might have too many out this week to beat Parramatta.

The Eels have been a bit off lately and have a poor record against the Storm but will face some serious questions about their credentials if they fail to win this one.


The Sharks have been going well and competing really hard but I could not be more impressed with the way the Panthers have been going about their business and I reckon only complacency beats them here.


The biggest challenge facing the Dragons will be getting up again after all the emotion surrounding Mary McGregor's last game as coach last weekend.

The Broncos have played well for periods but keep falling off a cliff in games and I doubt they'll have any more joy in this one.


The improving Titans will be tough at home even without skipper Kevin Proctor but with John Bateman back and in form and George Williams and Jack Wighton running the show, the Raiders should have too much firepower.


Luke Keary is a big out for the injury-hit Roosters but with forward leader Jared Waerea-Hargreaves back, I still think the defending premiers can win here. The Chooks will definitely need a big game from James Tedesco though.


This is a huge game for Manly because a loss may just about finish them and I definitely give them a big chance against a South Sydney side whose defence has been suspect.

I'm going for the Bunnies but it will be tight.


I like the Warriors here but not with any real confidence.

They are playing a good style of footy and have been pretty good for a few weeks now.

The Bulldogs attack is still too clunky for my liking but they will see this game as a must-win if they are to avoid the wooden spoon.


I saw some really good signs from the Knights last week with just the way they were able to fight back twice to get over the top of a desperate Manly.

They'll need to start better in this one but they just have too much to play for to drop this game.

The Cowboys have been good in patches but I'm expecting it to be a long trip home for them on Sunday night.