The NRL has stopped short of saying Lachlan Fitzgibbon should have been penalised for a late tackle on Nathan Cleary in Saturday’s game between Penrith and Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium.
But Head of Football Graham Annesley admitted it could have easily been a penalty, suggesting he would have backed his officials had they made such a call on the night.
The Panthers went on to win the game 16-15 in Golden Point thanks to a Cleary field goal.
The incident in question happened late in regulation time, when Cleary kicked a field goal to level the scores at 15-all but was hit in a late tackle by Fitzgibbon.
No action was taken on the field despite Cleary’s protests.
“It could have easily brought a penalty,” Annesley admitted today.
“The ball has gone, well and truly gone. His [Fitzgibbon’s] arms fall to the side and after the ball has gone, he lifts his right arm again and makes contact with Cleary.
“In another game, in a similar situation, that could have been ruled a foul on a kicker.”
Annesley said it was a warning to players that such incidents could end up costing their team matches.
Annesley confirmed if a penalty had been awarded, the field goal would have stood and Cleary would have had a chance to make it a three-point play.
Annesley also addressed the controversial penalty awarded to Penrith after Tyson Frizell accidentally pulled Jarome Luai’s hair in a tackle.
“The referee has been quite heavily criticised for this decision but I just don’t know what else the referee could have done,” he said.
“I get the argument, the hair is long… but we can’t have a rule that says if you have long hair, it’s OK to pull the hair.
“If the referee doesn’t act on that then there’s complaints about the referee not acting on a player getting his hair pulled.”
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.