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Raiders forward Hudson Young.

The NRL will consider making the penalties more severe for eye gouging if many more incidents find their way to the match review committee in 2019.

NRL head of football Graham Annesley, in his weekly review of each round of the Telstra Premiership, was unable to comment directly on the Hudson Young incident from Saturday's Raiders-Bulldogs game as the Canberra forward's case was unresolved at the time.

But an hour after Annesley's briefing, the Raiders accepted a five-match ban for the 34th-minute contact on prop Aiden Tolman.

It followed a round-five incident in which Cowboys forward Josh McGuire escaped a ban for facial contact on Storm five-eighth Cameron Munster. McGuire was fined $3350.

In the off-season internationals, England prop George Burgess received a four-match ban for his eye-gouge on Kiwis fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. Burgess missed the first three games for South Sydney's 2019 campaign.

Three incidents in a short space of time is far from ideal and the NRL knows it. Annesley has virtually put players on notice.

"It's fair to say those sorts of incidents aren't part of our game," he said on Monday.

Annesley addresses eye gouging

"It's true we've had a small number of them and one of the checks in the judiciary code is to provide a deterrent factor – to prevent the laws of the game from being breached.

"So we do a judiciary review at the end of each year, and we can adjust the points that apply to offences we think need to have the deterrent factor dialled up."

As for claims about inconsistency in the penalties handed to McGuire and Young, Annesley said each case had many variables, such as the clarity of camera angles, whether the player reacted to the contact or not, and whether he wanted to formally complain.

"So it's like trying to explain what constitutes a grade one high tackle with grade two or grade three … there will always be a difference of opinion about that and people will form their own views.

"But the match review committee takes their job very seriously and looks at past charges and gradings to try to get that consistency."  

Annesley said neither Brad Fittler or Kevin Walters had talked to referees' boss Bernie Sutton before Wednesday's Holden State of Origin series opener.

"At this point there's been no request from either state to meet with match officials," Annesley said.

"We would normally make that available if it's requested but we've had no contact.

"As far as instructions to officials, there's nothing special. It's basically exactly what we've been saying all year – and that is for match officials to stay out of the game as much as possible."

Annesley did clarify that in 2019 the Refs' Bunker's job is not to simply support the on-field referee's decision.

"We made a slight amendment to the process at the start of the season. Basically we asked the bunker officials to make their own decision based on all the angles and information they had. They would only then refer to the on-field decision if the footage they had available did not clarify it one way or the other," Annesley said.

"Last year the bunker had to have sufficient evidence, in their view, to overturn an on-field decision and that created difficulties and probably inconsistencies in rulings."

Figures provided by the NRL show the number of referrals are about the same, as with the amount of times a decision is overturned or upheld.

  2019 2018
Total referrals 335 331
Avg referrals per game 3.64 3.45
Avg referrals per 8-match round 29.1 27.6
Decision confirmed  84.2% 85.5%
Decision overturned 15.8% 14.5%

 

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