I was stunned when I read the other day that the 12-week ban handed down to Bulldogs’ prop James Graham was the NRL’s longest ban they had ever meted out for this type of offence, the previous longest being 8 weeks.
I don’t want to pass judgement on Graham – I certainly think the evidence looks bad, but I don’t think it was necessarily conclusive – instead I want to consider the act of biting on its own, without viewing it in reference to one particular player.
In my mind biting is about as low as you can go on a footy field (Maybe not quite as low as John Hopoate, but pretty close!). It’s right up there with eye-gouging and spear-tackling, and I was stunned to read that 2 months was the longest punishment the NRL had ever served a player with prior to this incident.
Biting an opponent is a cowardly move. It’s not an act of intimidation which has value on the field, like a big tackle, or even the odd punch or ‘dust-up’ every now and again – it is purely and simply a ‘dog’ act.
The judiciary were away for just ten minutes before returning their decision on Graham, suggesting to me they were completely and utterly convinced of his guilt. In my opinion, if you’re absolutely convinced that a player has bitten another player, and there were no extenuating circumstances to excuse the act (not that I can think of too many), the minimum ban should be a year.
That year should be a calendar year. Not just “10 games”, of which a couple will end up being trial or pre-season games and another couple meaningless Test-matches against Papua-New Guniea or the like. I think biting needs to be dealt with in the strictest possible terms, and the NRL really need to look at themselves if they genuinely hope to eradicate feral acts like biting and eye gouging from the game of Rugby League.