Featured Guest Writer: Andy Ward – Why The NRL Should Ban The Long Ban!

This weekend sees the return of Broncos dangerous centre Justin Hodges after his 6 week suspension for a dangerous throw on Eels hooker Mark Riddell.

It is on the issue of these lengthy suspensions that I take issue. The matter has been brought to my attention in particular by the recent long suspensions dished out to Hodges and Nate Myles for similar offences.

Hodges received a 6 match suspension for a dangerous throw on Riddell. He quite rightly deserved punishment for this offence, I don’t think many people would dispute that but I take issue with the nature of the punishment he received. All too often the NRL seem all to eager to throw a lengthy ban at a play and be done with it, well for me this isn’t the right thing to do for many reasons.

Firstly the fans, want to see the best players out there on the paddock, these massive bans deprive the innocent fans of seeing their heroes week in week out. It is these fans that pay these players wages and they are not rewarded by these bans.

Secondly in a time when NRL is striving to uphold its reputation and is seeking to keep its best players in the competition what good does it too to put the best payers on the sidelines for weeks at a time? Take Hodges for example what must he be thinking when he was sitting on the sidelines for six weeks, I don’t think anyone would blame him if he considered following another high profile centre out of the NRL.

Thirdly hailing from England and being a fan of both the NRL and Super League competitions it makes it easy for me to compare both in some detail. I believe that the RFL which governs Super League has got it right when considering banning players. Take the Hodges and Myles throws for example. A similar dangerous throw by Nick Scruton in a Super League match earned the player a 3 match ban, half of what Hodges and Myles received and a fairer sentence in my opinion.

I believe that there are many alternatives to just dishing out these unnecessary lengthy bans. Why not fine the players hard, hit them where it hurts, in their pockets, fine them 6 weeks wages and make them play for free, go one step further and make them donate these 6 weeks wages to rugby league communities, charities or bursaries.

The NRL could make the players do community service, visit schools and hospitals, get the offender to train local kids at local clubs. This way the players can give something back into the sport instead of just sitting on the sidelines for 6 weeks, who wants to see that?

If the NRL believe that there is a problem with a player’s attitude or part of his game then force the player to attend extra coaching sessions or therapy at his own expense. Rehabilitate the offender.

It has taken me 5 minutes to think up these alternatives to a ridiculously long ban, with careful consideration the NRL could think up many more.

In my opinion the lengthy ban should be used only as a last resort for the repeat offenders and only for the worst breach of the laws of the game. The equivalent of incarceration in the criminal law. Why not dish out a smaller ban and then use an alternative punishment likes the ones suggested above?

We all accept that protection of players is paramount and these offenders need to be punished but I believe the NRL need to look at the way it punishes its players. In a time when we need to be advertising and promoting our great game is the best outcome really one, which sees our best players sitting on the sidelines for weeks on end?

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