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If an NRL player is found guilty of the heinous act of biting an opponent, the minimum time he should serve on the sidelines should be six games.
Outgoing Canberra star Jack Wighton will think he was unlucky when he was handed a three-match ban at Tuesday night’s court hearing, but he should have been fined twice that amount.
And extra for his arrogance when he grumpily asked NRL lawyer Patrick Knowles: “How many rugby league games have you played?”
Imagine the outcry if he had asked Wighton: “How many law degrees do you have?”
What Wighton clearly doesn’t understand is that Knowles was paid (a lucrative amount, like the 30-year-old Raiders when chasing a ball around a pitch) to represent the NRL’s interests and protect the image of a multi-billionaire – dollar industry.
Very few sports have a problem with players biting each other, and they tend to lose their sponsors fairly quickly if they are found to condone such vile acts.
Wighton claimed he didn’t bite Newcastle’s Tyson Gamble, but that means he won’t be trying his luck in the gambling haven of Las Vegas next year when the team he joins, South Sydney, takes part in the NRL’s historic opening double-header 2024 season.
He drew snake eyes with his ill-conceived retort “How many rugby league games have you played?” after Knowles suggested Gamble had applied no more pressure than he would for a standard tackle
The crux of Wighton’s defense was that the incident was an accident, caused by Gamble applying pressure to his mouth with his forearm after tackling the Raiders’ center.
Wighton was reprimanded for his derogatory comment by justice chairman Geoffrey Bellew SC.
After an 80-minute hearing, the judicial panel of Penrith star Tony Puletua, former referee Paul Simpkins and Bellew took 20 minutes to decide on a guilty verdict and then handed down a three-match ban.
Wighton, who is joining the Rabbitohs on a four-year contract, claimed during the hearing that at no point did he bite and that there was nothing he could do to stop his mouth getting caught in Gamble’s arm.
Wighton’s lawyer Nick Ghabar did not dispute that Gamble’s forearm was touched. But the five-eighth claimed Gamble put “extreme” pressure on the back of his head and face when he put his arm around him during the tackle.
“His forearm actually fell into my mouth before I could even close it,” Wighton said. “I have no alternative, no place to go. It was full body weight, full pressure (on my head). My mouth was clamped shut, at no point did I clench my teeth, not one bit.”
Wighton was carrying the ball in his left arm when he was tackled, with Gamble clearly pushing his forearm towards his opponent’s mouth.
But Wighton’s claim that he had no alternative is nonsense. His right arm was free, giving him a full chance of punching Gamble away if he actually couldn’t breathe.
By the way, Gamble’s arm was in contact with Wighton’s mouth for four seconds. So if he can’t hold his breath for that long, Souths should be asking questions about what kind of athlete they’ve signed.
Knowles said that sheer pressure alone would not have created such a noticeable indentation on Gamble’s forearm and that there was an intent to bite.
Ghabar said no intent to bite could be proven, emphasizing that the six camera angles of the incident did not show any tensing of Wighton’s facial muscles to suggest a bite.
Gamble chose not to testify before the panel to keep his schedule clear before Saturday’s semifinal against the Warriors.
Ghabar suggested that Gamble did not testify and that Klein chose not to send Wighton off the field. Both raised doubts about the legitimacy of the vitriolic accusation.
But Bellew stopped the panel from doubling down on those claims.
Wighton dropped out of representative football mid-season, meaning the 30-year-old will not be able to apply for the end-of-season tests in Australia to overturn his suspension.
He was referred directly to the judiciary for grievous bodily harm in connection with the 46th-minute incident in his last game for Canberra, the 30-28 extra-time final defeat to Newcastle.
After a lengthy on-field debate, referee Ashley Klein opted to report the Canberra star rather than send him off.
In his report entered into evidence, Klein told the panel that the mark he saw on Gamble’s arm matched a row of teeth and was surrounded by what appeared to be saliva.
Former Gold Coast striker Kevin Proctor was the latest player to be banned for biting – the second-rower was banned for four games three years ago after his New Zealand teammate Shaun Johnson complained during his time with the Sharks.
The Raiders had requested the hearing be postponed until Wednesday, but following discussions with the NRL both parties agreed that Wighton should appear via videolink. Wighton pleaded not guilty and was supported by Raiders football manager Matt Ford and general manager Don Furner.
Gamble remained tight-lipped about the incident after the game.
“I want to leave that on the field. That’s football,” he said. “It’s done and dusted, we shook hands and (Wighton) said all the best for the rest of the finals series. We put it aside and move on.”
https://www.theroar.com.au/2023/09/12/jack-wighton-judiciary-verdict-canberra-raiders-star-learns-fate-over-biting-charge-on-tyson-gamble/ Wighton should have been awarded a six for Knight's bite