Tougher refereeing rules defended after card frenzy during NRL’s Magic Round

James Messenger

There will be no apology for the decision to tighten refereeing rules after 14 yellow cards and three red cards were issued during the NRL’s Magic Round, says competition chief executive Andrew Abdo.

The crackdown, announced earlier this week, is designed to reduce the likelihood of serious injuries and penalise players who are guilty of making repeat infringements.

Prior to the showpiece weekend at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, NRL referees were told to take harsher action on incidents involving contact with the head and other shows of excessive force.

Friday’s two games saw eight players sent to the sin-bin, with a further four on Saturday and two on Sunday.

In addition, Canberra Raiders forward Josh Papalii was shown a straight red card for a reckless shoulder charge on Canterbury’s Tuipulotu Katoa, meaning he could now miss the opening game of this year’s State of Origin on Wednesday 9 June. 

St. George Illawarra’s Tyrell Fuimaono and Gold Coast forward Herman Ese’ese were also sent off during Sunday’s Magic Round action for similar offences.

Speaking to the Sunday Footy Show, Abdo insists the change in rules is necessary, despite it overshadowing much of the weekend’s action.

“This is an intense, physical game and we’re talking about taking the responsible leadership position of eliminating the damage that can be done [by] dangerous head-high shots,” he said.

“I make no apologies for that and I absolutely believe that the decision the commission has made and the way it’s being implemented is right.”

Penrith Panthers benefitted from a red card for Titans front-rower Ese’ese to record their 10th straight NRL win and maintain their two-point lead at the top of the ladder with a 48-12 victory in the final game of the round.