St Helens criticise rugby league suspensions of Luke Walsh and Luke Thompson
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 18/08/16 8:09pm
St Helens have criticised the game's disciplinary procedure after being thwarted in their attempts to overturn two-match suspensions imposed on two of their players.
Saints had hoped to appeal the verdicts handed out to scrum-half Luke Walsh and forward Luke Thompson by a Rugby Football League independent tribunal on Wednesday but decided against it because of the close proximity to their game against Wigan on Friday.
The RFL says the original hearing was put back 24 hours because of illness to the scheduled high court judge and the unavailability of a replacement until Wednesday, which meant that any appeal would have to be heard a day later.
St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus said on Thursday: "We very much wished to appeal both decisions but clearly our coach had to choose and train with his final team today and not on match day.
"Also it is ridiculous to expect two players to do another five-hour round trip to Red Hall the night before a crucial game in which they may be playing. We effectively had no choice but to not exercise our right to appeal.
"I cannot ever recall such a set of circumstances and it is totally unsatisfactory."
Walsh was found guilty of a dangerous tackle and Thompson was punished for a shoulder charge during Saints' win over Catalans Dragons last Friday.
Both players were eligible for early-guilty pleas but the club opted to contest the charges.
"We consider the Luke Walsh punishment of a yellow card plus a two-match ban for a dangerous throw to be totally at odds with directly comparable or worse instances in recent weeks," McManus added.
"Yet again we are faced with inexplicable inconsistency which is eroding trust and respect for the system to breaking point.
"The Luke Thompson two-week ban for 'secondary contact', albeit accidental, has left the entire game perplexed. The 'primary contact' was actually an illegal leading elbow from Justin Horo who was then unfortunately accidentally injured, as was Luke Thompson.
"Most importantly, this new concept of secondary contact [which was wrongly applied in this instance] will undoubtedly open up a pandora's box of collateral incident which, if applied consistently, will result in a whole slew of match bans from accidental contact.
"We have now lost two of our key and form players to the biggest games of the season against Wigan and Hull in the Super 8s."
McManus believes flaws in the disciplinary system are damaging the game, adding: "I have been a lifetime avid supporter of rugby league due mainly to the clarity and simplicity of its rules and the resultant speed, intensity and skill which that framework produces on the field of play.
"That is what has always positively differentiated rugby league from other competitor sports. However, the guidelines and interpretations of those rules have become incomprehensible to most, and the game resultantly less enjoyable to view.
"The problem is accentuated by a dysfunctional and erratic disciplinary system. I have made too many representations to this effect to the governing body but to absolutely no avail."
Saints have amended their 19-man squad for Friday's game, calling up Theo Fages and Oliver Davies in place of the suspended duo.