Bulldogs players, fans face possible sanctions
NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg said the actions of two Bulldogs players and a handful of fans on Good Friday were unacceptable, with the players to face possible sanctions from the Match Review Committee and fans facing possible life bans.
Greenberg said if fans who threw bottles onto the field at the end of the game at ANZ Stadium can be identified "we'll be as hard as we possibly can" while both James Graham and David Klemmer could face contrary conduct or detrimental conduct charges from the MRC.
In a controversial finish to the game, Bulldogs skipper Graham tried to charge down an Adam Reynolds field-goal attempt that would have levelled the scores. But Graham collided with the South Sydney halfback's legs, causing what the Rabbitohs said appeared to be a ruptured lateral ligament which would rule the Blues hopeful out for between three and five months.
The on-field officials correctly ruled a penalty against Graham, which under the playing conditions meant a penalty 10m out, in front of the posts, allowing the Rabbitohs to claim a spiteful match 18-17.
After the penalty was awarded, Bulldogs bench prop David Klemmer was sent to the sinbin for swearing at the on-field officials while Graham was also cautioned for dissent. A handful of fans threw bottles on the field as the referees left the field at fulltime, causing a sideline official to slip and fall as he turned to avoid a bottle. An interchange official was struck in the head by a bottle which caused him to fall, resulting in a broken scapula.
"In simple terms it was completely unacceptable. A terrible look for the game, terrible look for the club, and we'll do everything we can to make sure we don't see it again," Greenberg said of the fans throwing projectiles towards the referees.
"There are a range of penalties available including life bans and if we deem them appropriate we will make those with the authorities including NSW Police. A lot of the issues now are police matters. We've been in contact with the police this morning, they're working their way through that investigation and we'll give them every piece of assistance we can.
"The police are working with the club, ANZ Stadium and [the NRL] and we'll do everything we can within our [power] to find those culprits and if we do we'll be as hard as we possibly can."
Of the two Bulldogs players accused of abusing referees, Greenberg said he wouldn't speculate on their specific cases as it would be contrary to the judicial process, but condemned any abuse of match officials by players.
"We have a very detailed match review process and under the code of procedure the [MRC] look at things like contrary conduct and detrimental conduct. Things like that will all form part of their review. If there are charges warranted I expect them to discharge their duties accordingly," he said.
"The players' behaviour was unacceptable. Swearing at referees is not to be tolerated. We won't tolerate it and under the code of procedure - there are penalties in place for that. I'm not going to talk specifically about those incidents because that would be unfair under the review system we have, but what I will say is the respect of players towards officials is paramount and if it's not there penalties will apply."
The Head of Football added that under the code there are two specific charges that could apply.
"One is contrary conduct and one is detrimental conduct and if the match review has deemed those issues in the game, as others, they'll make those charges apparent."
Greenberg said after such an amazing spectacle it was disappointing all the talk the next day centred around "a few idiots" who spoiled it for everyone.
"Last night was a phenomenal game. Two grand final teams, a one point game, it had everything in it and the 40,000 people would have really enjoyed themselves but it's really disappointing to be standing here today not talking about the quality of the contest but rather we're talking about a few idiots who spoiled it for the rest," he said.
"There are people on the sideline including children who act as ballboys, and having objects thrown from the crowd puts their safety in jeopardy and we just cannot tolerate that."
He also threw his support behind the officiating team, who he said did a "fantastic job" during the Good Friday clash.
"They made some pretty tough decisions, the last one [the penalty against Graham] was a tough one, it was marginal but they got it right. Ccontact with the legs of a kicker – even if it's accidental – cannot happen," he said.
"And they made that call, they adjudicated the penalty in front as per the rule book. A lot of people didn't know that rule. They make the decisions in real time, they have a fundamentally difficult job to do.
"I've been saying for several months now - our match officials need greater levels of support, they need people across the game to understand from the top down it's a tough job and we need them in the game."