Off the Wall: NRL Judiciary

I will leave it for others to comment on the guilt, and penalty, (please do not call it a "sentence" for the judiciary is not a criminal court) of Jordan McLean. There are many and varied views as one would expect in the circumstances.

My focus is once again on the whole judiciary process the NRL has basically been using since the end of the "Super League" war, The current system is one of the unfortunate legacies from that period

There are several aspects of the system that are, in my view, unfair, unjust, and not in the best interests of a transparent, modern and accountable, game.

My principal concern continues to be the disincentive the whole system imposes on players and clubs who want to have a "charge" heard.

The fact a player who challenges a charge and/or a grading will get a higher penalty if the challenge fails is inherently unfair.

It is the reason why the number of cases that even get to the judiciary is but a small minority of the charges laid and penalties issued.

That is how it has been since the current system was introduced, I guess in 1997/98.

What happens is that players, and more importantly their clubs, accept the grading, and penalty, given by a panel operating in secret, because to challenge it simply means a loss before the judiciary results in an effective higher penalty!

The points system, with carry overs, discounts, and loadings, is complex.

I have serious reservations about it - but my fundamental concern since the current judiciary process was introduced remains, and has never been addressed.

The problem when players and clubs accept a grading, and a reduced penalty, for an early guilty plea is there can be serious downstream consequences - such as carry over points that impact when a player is charged on the even of an origin game or the finals series.

But the way the system is structured it is hard to blame clubs for insisting on the early guilty plea option.

Why can't a well funded, and well resourced, modern NRL allow any player who is charged to have his case heard by the judiciary without the threat of an additional penalty if they are unsuccessful?

If that requires two or three panels, then so what?

The decisions make on penalties have wide ranging consequences in a professional game. There ought to be a maximum focus on transparency and on fairness - regardless of cost. A player should be allowed to lodge a guilty plea, and accept the defined penalty.

Or he should have an equal right to challenge - and do so without detriment just for doing so!

I grew up in the Jim Comans judiciary era. It served the game well. Its operation was simple. If you were sent off, or charged, you fronted up at the Phillip Street HQ on a Monday or Tuesday night - and you took your chances.

It might not be appropriate to return to that process......but it was very effective.

Sometimes the judiciary sat until after midnight, or for a second night. But every player got a fair hearing. The judiciary comprised a senior lawyer (Jim Comans) and two other panel members - usually a former club official, former player and/or or just a citizen chosen by the administration. The fact there was a standing judiciary panel added to consistency.

The process we have today is seriously flawed.

The only really qualified panel member - the Chairman Judge Paul Conlan, has neither a vote on guilt or a say on penalty. That all rests with a changing panel of three former players - another stunt brought in by Super League. The panel changes regularly - so inconsistency in decisions and penalties is almost inevitable.

The judiciary would be well served by the panel including men, and women, who are not former players - but just good and independent citizens wanting to see a fair outcome. Why should former players alone adjudicate on current players?

The whole process needs to be reviewed - and quite frankly made more transparent, and fair.

Is that really asking too much?

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