Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
The NRL has been heavily criticised for its judicial system so much so that it was revamped at the beginning of 2022.
Despite this there are still mind-boggling decisions being made when it comes to punishment for player indiscretions.
In the 2022 NRL Grand Final Parramatta Eels forward Ryan Matterson’s crusher tackle on Penrith Panthers fullback was not met with a cut-and-dry punishment by the judiciary but rather an ultimatum, pay a $4000 fine or accept a three-match ban.
While allowing a player to choose their punishment is baffling enough to begin with, Matterson’s decision shocked the masses as he opted to accept the three-game suspension and miss out on the opening three rounds of the 2023 NRL season.
However, the New South Wales State of Origin representative has reportedly had a change of heart and now wants to take the fine instead over a month after making his original decision.
If Matterson is allowed to change his mind after all this time the NRL judiciary’s already questionable credibility will be damaged even further.
The reason why the credibility of the judiciary is in its current state is due to a decision that was made in the lead-up to the 2022 NRL finals series that left most fans shocked.
After Panthers winger Taylan May was found guilty of assault occasioning bodily harm concerning an incident that took place off the field in late 2021 he was given a two-game suspension that is yet to be served as the NRL has allowed the 21-year-old to face his punishment at the beginning of 2023.
Eels great Nathan Hindmarsh can't understand why Ryan Matterson opted for a three-game ban over a fine, saying 'it's all very weird' 🤔https://t.co/Bv3WmNAR7v
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) December 1, 2022
The big difference between May’s situation and that of most others is that he is being suspended for a situation that happened off the field but that is no excuse for him to have been able to play in this year’s finals series.
When looking at the Matterson and May incidents three issues with the NRL’s judicial system have come to the forefront.
First of all the fact that it is possible to allow a player to choose their punishment for an incident is laughable, and then on top of that if said player can change their original decision, especially over a month later that just makes things even worse so hopefully the NRL deny Matterson the right to do so.
Then lastly the ability to dictate when a suspension can take place instead of it having to be enacted the moment the punishment is handed down sets a very dangerous precedent that down the line could lead to favouritism towards certain clubs.
In 2023 these rules must be changed to help reinstall the fans’ trust in the game’s judicial system otherwise the process will be open to further scrutiny.