Canberra coach Ricky Stuart claimed Nick Cotric should not have been sent off for a dangerous throw on Dragons centre Tim Lafai and vowed to defend any serious charge against him.
Stuart was fired up in the post-match media conference, saying he believed Cotric was dismissed for the 59th minute tackle because "there's a lot of noise at the moment in regards to a lot of foul play".
Raiders captain Jarrod Croker said he and team-mates were “shocked” when referee Ashley Klein gave Cotric his marching orders, while the 20-year-old centre was a shattered figure in the dressing rooms.
"I don't believe that was foul, it was an accident," Stuart said. "Whoever thinks that's a spear tackle doesn't know the game of rugby league.
"It was unintentional. It [the tackle] got away on him a little bit and I understand that. That's an accident.
"The kid [Lafai] played on. Nick has got no malice in him at all. It ended up with him on the wrong end of it as far as being sent off. I just thought it was very harsh.”
Stuart: People who think it was a spear tackle are new to rugby league
Cotric was the first player sent off since Melbourne centre Curtis Scott was dismissed for punching Manly’s Dylan Walker in their round 11 match last season.
Stuart believes Cotric was a victim of a crackdown on dangerous tackles and foul play following a number of unsavoury incidents, including an eye-gouging charge that cost South Sydney prop George Burgess a nine-match ban.
Crusher tackles and late shots on kickers also face tougher action after a spate of incidents in the first half of the season.
Stuart made mention of a tackle by Parramatta forward Peni Terepo that resulted in Raiders winger Jordan Rapana suffering a broken nose. Terepo received a three-match ban.
He also questioned why Dragons winger Mikaele Ravalawa had not been sent off or sin binned after being placed on report for a high tackle that forced Croker from the field for a HIA.
“I feel for the officials who have to react to all this hype around it,” Stuart said. “The reaction was probably the case of what has been said and what has been heard about eye-gouging, whacks to the head and late hits.
“None of those guys are being sent off, yet one of my guys gets sent off. I just thought it was very harsh.
“I believe that was an accident and there is a big difference between a foul shot and an accident. We saw one (a late hit from Rabbitohs prop Liam Knight on Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans on Saturday) where a halfback had whiplash and there was nothing done. They’re more intentional than an accident.
“In our game, with the collision and the velocity we play at you are always going to have accidents. That’s got to be argued, and we will argue it.”
Stuart raced to the dressing shed after fulltime to console Cotric, who made his State of Origin debut for NSW in this year's series opener before suffering a syndesmosis injury that had sidelined him until Sunday’s match against the Dragons.
“He is shattered, he is a young kid with no malice in him,” Stuart said. My heart went out to him because I know how much it is hurting him. All he is asking me is what’s going to happen, what’s going to happen. The kid just wants to play footy. We’ll fight it anyhow.”
Croker said he had been stunned when Klein pointed Cotric to the dressing room.
“In the first instance I didn’t think it was a send off,” Croker said. “I have only seen it live but I thought maybe a report and a penalty. I was certainly shocked. I didn’t think he would be sent off.”
St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor said Lafai was not injured in the tackle.
"There was no intent on Nick’s behalf, it just finished in the wrong position. Tim bounced up which was good," McGregor said.
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