Fears grow NRL’s best could be bashed after judiciary call
FORMER Kangaroos players Trevor Gillmeister and Gary Belcher fear marquee players could be bashed out of games following the NRL match review committee's lenient treatment of Newcastle forward Beau Scott who targeted North Queensland Cowboys star Johnathan Thurston at the weekend.
Thurston finished the match with bruised ribs and a badly cut and swollen left eye, the result of two tackles by Scott, who employed similar intimidating tactics on Thurston during last year's State of Origin series, and an errant knee from Knights enforcer Jeremy Smith.
Scott escaped any charge for his 18th-minute tackle on Thurston that appeared blatantly late, and copped just a grade one dangerous contact (head/neck) tackle for his 46th-minute effort which saw Thurston's head bent and driven into the ground.
"That's appalling, it's disgusting," steamed Belcher, who played more than 250 NRL games and was a commentator at the clash in Townsville on Saturday night.
"That's a shocker.
"Whoever graded that needs to understand the game, take another look at it and put their hand up and say: 'I got it wrong'," Belcher added.
"I thought it was at least a grade two or grade three for a tackle that had the potential to break Thurston's neck."
Gillmeister, who played more than 200 NRL games and 22 State of Origin matches - including one where he climbed out of his hospital bed to lead the underdog Maroons to a 3-0 whitewash in 1995 - said Scott's 18th-minute tackle on Thurston was "pretty ordinary" at best.
"In this day and age for me, that's an ugly tackle because the player has relaxed and is not expecting to be hit after he passes the ball," Gillmeister, one of the game's greatest hit men, told APN.
"In my day, Arthur Beetson used to tell players to keep an elbow up for two or three seconds after passing or kicking the ball, so if the player came flying in late and copped it in the face or sternum, he'd think twice next time."
The Cowboys were in a state of shock when the NRL's charge sheet came out, but declined to comment when contacted by APN to avoid a costly $10,000 fine.
However Gillmeister, who had no such financial restraints, said the tackle was a "bad look" and the NRL's failure to charge Scott sent a bad message that back-rowers could clean-up opposition halves with dubious tackles.
Every player and coach who saw Scott drop and drive his body into
Thurston's ribs knows the tackle was a "cheap shot", that term being used freely in rugby league circles when the incident was discussed.
"This has opened up a can of worms and has invited all the back-rowers to whack and flatten our marquee players," Gillmeister said.
"What if one of the Cowboys forwards cleans up Anthony Milford on Friday night (when North Queensland plays Brisbane)? Would that player get the same benefits as Scott?
"I don't think so."