The NRL has been slammed for failing to rub out a dangerous tackling method after Nathan Cleary escaped with a fine for an ugly incident involving Billy Walters.
The Panthers superstar wrapped his leg around Walters in a tackle, forcing the Broncos five-eighth into an awkward position as he fell to the turf in their 28-point defeat to the premiers.
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Cleary was quick to apologise to Walters, who appeared in pain after the tackle.
The match review committee hit Cleary with a grade one dangerous contact charge but opted not to suspend the Panthers halfback, instead fining him a minimum of $1000.
The NRL360 panel said the league had missed an opportunity to send a message to players.
“I thought he put Billy Walters in a pretty dangerous position,” the Daily Telegraph’s Dave Riccio said.
“Look at the twist and turn of the knee there with Billy. Cleary has wrapped his leg around and buckles Billy’s knee pretty badly.
“You can snap ACL’s pretty easily there. I think he deserved at least one week.”
NRL360 host Paul Kent said he feared there would be repeat incidents of the Cleary tackle.
“The critical part for me is the fact that once he had the leg wrapped around he bent him back over the leg,” he said.
“That’s the dangerous part for me that the NRL really missed.
“The issue will be now that someone else will do it. They will think that this is an effective way to get someone down. Put the leg across his knee and bend him back over it.
“At some point someone’s cruciate will go and everyone will say we did nothing about it.”
Braith Anasta then questioned if Cleary’s clean record and reputation influenced the lenient sanction from the NRL.
“It shouldn’t,” Riccio replied.
“But if it was Jack Hetherington or Jaydn Su’a or Jared Waerea-Hargreaves it may have been different.”
The NRL360 panel weren’t alone on the issue.
Rugby League legend Andrew Johns confronted Cleary on the Sunday Footy Show.
“I thought looking at it and after the game, I thought it was really dangerous,” Johns told Cleary. “Talk us through it.”
Cleary was quick to agree that the tackle wasn’t pretty.
“That was a really bad one,” Cleary admitted. “It was an awkward tackle, I rushed out and tried to take him to the ground. It was poor technique.
“As soon as my leg came off the ground, anything can happen from there. I definitely didn’t do it with any intent, but it was a real ugly one.”