UpFront: Does the punishment fit the crime when huge bans are handed out?

Suspensions, or to be more precise their length, are in the spotlight.

Newcastle Thunder backrower Alex Foster and Cornwall hooker Luke Collins both face bans of at least eight matches after being called to disciplinary tribunals by the Rugby Football League panel.

Foster is in hot water after apparently pushing referee Michael Smaill during Newcastle’s win over Bradford Bulls and has been charged with Grade F assault of a match official.

While he was sinbinned for the eleventh-minute incident, Collins was dismissed after twelve minutes in Cornwall’s defeat by Doncaster. He has been given a maximum Grade F charge of unacceptable language.

Grade F charges carry a minimum eight-game penalty under the RFL’s disciplinary guidelines.

Halifax Panthers prop Titus Gwaze had already been hit with that length of suspension for lifting an injured opponent during his side’s stormy 43-18 win at Barrow Raiders, where the Yorkshire side finished the match with only eleven men after he and Greg Worthington were both sent off.

The player pulled up by his shirt, Barrow’s Hakim Miloudi, had only recently returned from his own eight-match ban, imposed for two incidents during the Raiders’ 30-18 home defeat by Batley Bulldogs – recklessly making contact with an opponent off the ball and moving an injured opponent. Miloudi was red carded at the time.

St Helens’ Sione Mata’utia was sent from the field for a similar offence on Friday night against Huddersfield and he will learn his fate this week.

While the RFL have made no secret of their desire to crack down on acts which potentially endanger other players, some believe the governing body are going too far and that the punishments outweigh the crime.

And some would point to Australia, where Queensland duo Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Dane Gagai and New South Wales’ Matt Burton were charged by the match review committee for their roles in a brawl during the State of Origin decider – but escaped suspension.

Fa’asuamaleaui was charged for a high tackle and dangerous contact while Burton and Gagai were both charged with striking.

The incident in question took place in the 41st minute of the intense Brisbane showdown when Burton took out Kalyn Ponga as he worked his way back into the Queensland line.

Gagai pushed Burton away and the two threw punches at one another before Fa’asuamaleaui put Burton in a headlock and wrestled him to the ground.

Players from both teams immediately sprinted over in an attempt to break up the skirmish.

Gagai and Burton were sent to the sinbin, but Fa’asuamaleaui somehow managed to stay on the field.

While fined, the trio escaped bans in line with the NRL’s changes to the judiciary code made in June, reducing the chance of a suspension being imposed for offences during non-club games.

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