NRL head of football Graham Annesley believes South Sydney star Latrell Mitchell should have been sent off in Friday night's match against Sydney Roosters but he has defended the bunker for not taking immediate action over the incident that left Joey Manu with a fractured cheekbone.
Mitchell is facing a season-ending ban of six to nine weeks after being charged with a grade two reckless high tackle, while Manu has undergone surgery and is unlikely to take any further part in the Roosters premiership campaign.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson was fuming after Friday night's 54-12 loss over the failure to send off Mitchell and Annesley agreed that the incident warranted more than the 10-minute stint in the sinbin that the Rabbitohs fullback received.
"I think it should have resulted in a dismissal," Annesley told 2GB on Saturday.
"Obviously I can't dissect the incident in great detail because there is a judiciary process underway and Latrell has got the opportunity to defend the charge if he so chooses. But I think it is fair to say that based on what happened last night, in our view and regardless of what might happen at the judiciary process, the bunker took the wrong option of a sin-bin.
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"That is not to pass any judgement on guilt or innocence. That is up to the judiciary if it gets to that point, but I think in terms of the action that was required by the match officials that was probably a bit less than what we would have expected."
Senior review official Henry Perenara was dropped his role in the bunker for Saturday night's Melbourne-Parramatta clash but Annesley insisted match officials did not miss the incident and explained why it took four tackles before action was taken.
Touch judge Todd Smith, who was closest to the incident, immediately asked the bunker to review the tackle but play continued as Manu had lost the ball backwards and Roosters halfback Sam Walker picked it up before passing to second-rower Sitili Tupouniua.
The bunker immediately advised that Mitchell would be penalised but continued to study replays to determine whether further action should be taken against him.
However, referee Ashley Klein then blew a penalty for another infringement and a melee broke out after a visibly upset Manu raced in to confront Mitchell.
"I am disappointed that the action taken wasn't stronger, but I do want to clear up a misconception about when the officials acted on this," Annesley said.
"The audio has been reviewed and the touch judge immediately indicated that there may be a problem with the tackle and he asked the bunker to review it while the play continued.
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"No one immediately knew the seriousness of this incident because the play carried on. I am not trying to downplay the incident in any way, shape or form but until we saw some of those pretty graphic replays no one was sure how serious this was and the match officials were the same.
"This happened in the blink of an eye. It was an extremely fast incident because of the speed that Latrell was going at.
"The touch judge on that side, who was closest to it, felt that there could be a problem in the tackle and asked for it to be reviewed. That is a very normal process for that type of incident, and it was only on the replays that everyone saw how serious it was.
"Initially the bunker indicated to the referee that that they would be coming back for a penalty for the incident, while they continued reviewing it.
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"Then we had a penalty that was awarded by the referee for another incident and then we had a melee break out, so there was a lot happening at the time.
"Any perception that the incident was missed by the officials is not accurate. Whether they took the appropriate action or not is a separate matter."
Annesley said the NRL would review Robinson's comments to determine whether he had overstepped the mark with his criticism of Perenera and the bunker.
However, he confirmed that Perenera had been replaced by Alan Shortall as the senior review official for the Storm-Eels match.
"He has been relegated," Annesley said. "What happens beyond this weekend we haven't turned our minds to it but certainly based on what happened last night, our expectations and also the pressure that is on him today it wouldn't have been the right thing to have him officiate in that game later tonight.
"In terms of the post-match press conference that is a matter that others at the NRL would deal with."