Michael Ennis of the Sharks avoided sanction for an apparent shoulder charge.
Michael Ennis of the Sharks avoided sanction for an apparent shoulder charge. CRAIG GOLDING

Match Review Committee has become laughing stock

MICHAEL Buettner was a damn good footballer. He represented his country and his state, and accumulated 263 games for four NRL clubs over 12 seasons.

But his tenure as NRL Match Review Committee chairman won't last that long. Or at least it shouldn't.

As we are well aware, none of us are perfect. And, as Test great Bob McCarthy once eminently declared during a radio broadcast, pencils have rubbers on one end because people make mistakes.

But Michael Buettner and his fellow MRC members have just made one too many. The citing and subsequent exoneration of Raiders fullback Jack Wighton this week is, surely, the final straw.

During my long association with the game I have witnessed some real doozies when it comes to judiciary decisions. I cannot, however, recall more stuff-ups than in 2016.

And stats from the judiciary support this notion. Wighton is the 11th player this season to be cited by Beuttner's MRC and then exonerated by the judiciary panel a couple of nights later.

While some may view this statistic as justice at work in its purest form, the ongoing disparity has evolved into a dead-set joke. And that inconsistency is not just between the reviewers and the judiciary panel.

The Wighton incident is a case in point. A mere three hours before Wighton was penalised and placed on report for his supposed shoulder charge, the NRL announced that Michael Ennis would not be charged for what appeared to most fans - and experienced commentators - an almost identical infringement.

Not for one minute am I suggesting Wighton was not guilty of a shoulder charge, because I believe he was. But because Ennis was not charged, neither should the Raiders fullback.

And it is these irregularities that are bugging the fans. They have no inkling whether a player will be charged after an on-field incident, and the same uncertainty applies to the fate of the player when he fronts the judiciary.

The citing/judiciary process has become a lottery, and in turn has created an extremely poor look for the NRL. Something akin to pinning the tale on the donkey should in no way be associated with a sport that is now a billion-dollar industry.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but Todd Greenberg must find one before next season kicks off. Maybe he needs someone with no long-term rugby league association who can view these incidents with a clear, unbiased mind, and can bring consistency to this area of the game.

And while he contemplates that issue, why not implement a reserve situation for judiciary panellists. That one panel member on Tuesday night missed his flight and the hearing was delayed while a replacement was found is unprofessional and laughable.