Rugby League Expert & Columnist
Brian Carney's eye-catchers: Did Ben Garcia deserve further punishment for Aaron Murphy tackle?
Last Updated: 05/06/18 3:17pm
Brian Carney looks at two controversial Challenge Cup tackles and the limits of the disciplinary procedure that followed.
The Challenge Cup quarter-final between Huddersfield Giants and Catalans Dragons was arguably one of the poorest games we have seen for some time but it did produce at least one compelling incident.
So let's take a closer look at the "tackle" by Dragons forward Ben Garcia on the Giants' Aaron Murphy and the disciplinary procedure that followed.
Looking at that tackle, and a similar one in the Wigan-Warrington clash involving Thomas Leuluai and Ben Westwood, in the company of colleagues who have played the game at the highest level, to a man we agreed it was not good.
Garcia was sin-binned but to a trained eye the tackle certainly looked worthy of further sanction, so why did he not even get a mention in the disciplinary findings produced by the match review panel?
On a Monday, what usually happens is that the match review panel will look at each game in its entirety and flag up any incidents that they feel the referee might have missed or that the referee has brought their attention to and suggested warrants further investigation.
The problem is that we have clamoured for objectivity from referees and the disciplinary panel and that means the match review panel can only ever judge these incidents against set criteria agreed by the Super League clubs.
If we look at the Garcia incident, his actions don't marry up with any of the criteria that would allow the match review panel to charge him.
That is not the match review panel's fault, it is probably because of the need for total objectivity and the apparent desire to reduce such an invasive, all-action, colourful game to black and white.
Garcia is seen "prowling" around two other team-mates trying to tackle Murphy and then he chooses what he clearly feels is an opportune time to enter into the tackle.
Whether or not Garcia was looking for a joint to hurt or an entry into the tackle that would cause no hurt, he cannot be accused of being reckless because he was being quite deliberate in what he was trying to do. So, in this case, reckless is off the table and he cannot be charged with such.
Luckily for Murphy, he sees what he believes Garcia is trying to do and lifts his leg at the last moment. This means that Murphy avoids any serious injury because Garcia doesn't make contact with any part of Murphy's body and there is no dangerous contact.
We therefore have a situation that is much like a punch: if I grab you by the collar and cock my fist, intending in my head to punch you in the face and break your nose, then your great reactions cause you to move your head and I miss, I can't be charged.
As a result, we have a bizarre situation where the match review panel is absolutely hamstrung because for years we have asked them to only adjudicate according to a very precise set of rules.
The same thing happened in the Leuluai-Eastwood incident.
I believe that Paul Cullen and the match review panel are doing sterling work, but they are continuously copping criticism from spectators, players, coaches and the media. Sometimes from people who don't know any better but more often than not criticism is coming from people who absolutely should know better.
It must be said that both Garcia and Leuluai were cleared but I don't want to see incidents like that in the game.
So how do we get rid of these kind of incidents? This is the difficult part.
It is very hard to write down a list of actions that will cover everything a player does that you want to stamp out.
Sometimes you must allow for an element of subjective thinking, fraught with danger as it can be.
I have no doubt that had they tried to charge Garcia that it would have been challenged by the Dragons who in essence would have said that there was no dangerous contact and he wasn't reckless when engaging in the tackle.
The big question is how do we tally those two situations?
People want black and white. You are driving at 71 mph, the limit is 70 mph, you get fined - that's clear. This isn't.
These guys fire themselves into a tackle and the aggressor appears to be rewarded because the intended victim takes evasive action.
It's a tough one for the review panel on a Monday morning who are left saying, 'we know it looks terrible and he might have been trying to do something bad but we can't do him on that'.
The nature of sport is that you will have incidents like this, where a player has thrown himself in there but they do it in a calculated way rather than a reckless way.
Unfortunately the only way he doesn't get away with it is if he seriously damages another player and that can't be right.
The match review panel have to fight club-centric bias on a weekly basis, people up in arms at the decisions they make, but it is important to know that the match review panel work to a strict criteria agreed to by all the clubs.
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks, it is probably a duck.
But when the match review panel try to apply common sense, common sense it continually challenged by the clubs to suit their own agendas.
Common sense would say that Garcia was guilty of an action that should be punished but it seems some parties aren't interested in common sense unless it suits them.
The match review panel has almost been forbidden, by a club-centric bias, from using common sense.