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Super League: Franklin Pele, Michael McIlorum and Liam Watts face up to six-game bans after tribunal referrals

Franklin Pele, Liam Watts and Michael McIlorum were all sent off for head contact offences in the Betfred Super League's opening round; each could be banned for anywhere between four and six matches; watch every Super League game in 2024 live on Sky Sports

Referee Liam Moore red cards Hull FC's Franklin Pele
Image: Referee Liam Moore shows the red card to Hull FC's Franklin Pele

Franklin Pele, Liam Watts and Michael McIlorum are facing the prospect of lengthy bans following their red cards in the opening round of the 2024 Betfred Super League season.

Pele was sent off on his debut for Hull FC in their opening-night 22-0 defeat to rivals Hull KR, while McIlorum and Watts were both dismissed on Saturday in their respective matches for Catalans Dragons and Castleford Tigers.

The trio are set for a suspension of anywhere between four and six matches each after being charged with Grade E head contact offences and are due to appear at operational rules tribunals on Tuesday evening.

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Liam Watts was sent off for Castleford Tigers for this tackle on Wigan Warriors' Tyler Dupree, to the dismay of the home side's coaching staff

However, Castleford director of rugby operations Danny Wilson asked for clarity over the decision around Watts' red card following the announcement from Monday's match review panel.

"I think you could see everybody in the game's reaction to Liam Watts alone," Wilson said. "At the end of the day, people make mistakes, players make mistakes, match officials make mistakes, and you can live with that if it sits with that game.

"When it goes to the match review panel it gets graded in a way in comparison to other instances over the weekend, we're left a bit confused, so we need to get our house in order pretty quick.

"To do that, we need some explanation of why they are graded the way they are. We've asked for an urgent meeting with the powers that be for some explanation."

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It was a debut to forget for Hull FC's Franklin Pele as he was sent off for a swinging arm which sparked a wild brawl between the two sets of players.

Nine other players were given penalty notices following Round 1 of the new Super League season, with Pele's team-mates Ligi Sao (Grade D other contrary behaviour) and Herman Ese'ese (Grade D head contact) being suspended for three and two matches respectively.

Other players banned for head contact offences were Leigh Leopards pair Tom Amone (Grade C, two matches) and Ricky Leutele (Grade B, one match), Salford Red Devils' Ryan Brierley (Grace C, one match), Castleford's Charbel Tasipale (Grade C, one match) and Catalans' Paul Seguier (Grade D, two matches).

Hull KR hooker Matt Parcell and Warrington Wolves second row Jordy Crowther both received one-match penalty notices for charges of other contrary behaviour, while Hull FC's Jayden Okunbor and Leigh's Zak Hardaker were both fined £250 for dangerous contact.

Harry Smith, who was sin-binned in Wigan Warriors' 32-4 win over Castleford, will be free to play in Saturday's World Club Challenge against Penrith Panthers after escaping with a £250 fine for a Grade C dangerous throw/lift, however.

Picture by Alex Whitehead/ - 24/05/2023 - Rugby League - Rugby Football League (RFL) Executive Board - Etihad Campus, Manchester, England - Robert Hicks
Image: RFL director of operations and legal Robert Hicks defender the number of cards handed out by officials in Round 1

In total, 13 cards were shown to players by match officials across the opening six fixtures of the 2024 season following rugby league's lawmakers stiffening up punishments around head contact.

"The number of yellow and red cards shown in the opening round of the Betfred Super League has already become a talking point, and doubtless the number of charges arising from the MRP meeting will be similar - but it is important to provide some context," RFL director of operations and legal Robert Hicks said.

"Of the 13 cards shown, 10 of the incidents would have led to a card being shown under the framework that applied in 2023.

"One area which has made a difference is in head-on-head contact, and the responsibility of attacking and tackling players in this area.

"Just as the sport should be grateful to the commitment of Match Officials and the MRP in implementing change at such a pivotal period for the sport, we also reiterate our gratitude to clubs, coaches and players for their positive approach over recent months."

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