NRL responds to stinging Fittler fight claim

The NRL had no issue with the way referees or the match review committee handled the State of Origin fisticuffs last week.

Queensland center Dane Gagai and his New South Wales counterpart Matt Burton were sin-binned for punching on during the epic series decider at Suncorp Stadium.

Blues coach Brad Fittler later lamented the fact Maroons enforcer Tino Fa’asuamaleaui was allowed to remain on the field, despite getting involved in the hubbub and holding onto Burton while he was punched by Gagai.

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Fittler doubled down on his grievances when appearing on Nine’s Sunday Footy Show, questioning why Burton was fined more than Fa’asuamaleaui despite the latter being charged twice for separate incidents.

“The problem I had with it was Graham Annesley had come out during the week and spoke about the third man in should be sin-binned,” Fittler told The Sunday Footy Show.

Gagai, Burton binned after fight erupts

“Tino was the third man in and he could have done other things other than put (Burton) in a pretty aggressive head lock, and the way that got treated. The fact is at the end of the day when it went to the (MRC ) Matt Burton actually got more money than Tino.

“Matt Burton got fined more than Tino. I find that absolutely ridiculous.”

Annesley – the NRL’s head of football – was quizzed on that criticism during his media address on Monday.

“It’s a matter for the match officials to determine,” he said.

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“I have no problem at all with the two players who were sin-binned. There are some people that would suggest Tino should have been sent to the bin as well.

“His involvement was different. The match officials dealt with that in consultation with the Bunker, and then the match review committee dealt with it.

“I’m not going to be critical of it. I think it was important that action was taken on the field, and it was just as important that it was reviewed by the match review committee.”

Annesley was asked whether the Origin incident strengthened a case for five-minute sin-bins, as well as the regular 10-minute bin.

It would take a brave referee to reduce a team to 11 players for a 10-minute period – although that’s not suggested as the reason Ashley Klein opted not to march Fa’asuamaleaui from the field.

Annesley pointed out the NRL did once feature a five-minute sin-bin rule, and explained why it was scrapped.

“We used to have a five-minute sin-bin, and the reason that was eliminated was there was too much criticism there was too much inconsistency in players going to the bin for 10 minutes and players going to the bin for five minutes, in some cases for what people would claim were very similar incidents,” he said.

“In order to try to get some more consistency it was determined to just go forward with the 10-minute sin bin.

“I know that’s a constant topic of conversation – the rules get reviewed every year, and we’ll do that again at the end of this season. But whether that will be something that comes under consideration or not, it’s too early to say at this point.”

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