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Case Detail

Case Number:

ON/564/20

Alex Walmsley #8, St Helens

Competition:

Super League

Match:

St Helens v Leeds

Match Date:

2020-10-23

Incident:

Dangerous Contact in the 10th minute (A Sutcliffe)

Decision:

Charge

Charge Detail:

Rule: 15.1(i)
Detail - Defending player, in or after effecting a tackle, uses any part of their body forcefully to bend or apply unnecessary pressure to the head and/or spinal column of the tackled player so as to keep the tackled player at a disadvantage in or after the tackle
Grade: C

Fine:

£500

Sanctions:

2 Match Penalty Notice

Decision On Charge

Player plea:

Guilty but challenging grading

Summary of CM's submissions on the Charge / evidence:

The MRP reviewed the incident which occurred in the 10th minute, for which Mr Walmsley was temporarily dismissed by the referee, Liam Moore (having consulted with the video referee Ben Thaler). The Panel were concerned by the nature of the contact which placed unnecessary pressure to the spinal column and neck on Mr Walmsley’s opponent, Alex Sutcliffe.
Mr Sutcliffe returns the ball and initially meets Mr Walmsley front on in contact. Two other St Helens’ defenders (James Roby and Morgan Knowles) are involved in the tackle either side of Mr Walmsley.
Focussing on the action of Mr Walmsley:
• Mr Walmsley and Mr Sutcliffe have front on initial contact.
• Following initial contact Mr Sutcliffe’s head is caught under the armpit of Mr Walmsley with Mr Walmsley’s arm hooked around the neck area of Mr Sutcliffe.
• Mr Walmsley has Mr Sutcliffe in a firm grip, of which he would have been aware. He has a hold under Mr Sutcliffe’s left arm with his other (right) hand. Combined with the position of his left hand, this is known as an ‘underhook grip’.
• Mr Sutcliffe’s head is tight into the body of Mr Walmsley. The tackle of the other 2 players effectively leaves Mr Sutcliffe with nowhere to go as his head his trapped.
• Mr Walmsley does not release the grip and as the force of the 3 man tackle, particularly the pressure applied by Mr Knowles pushes Mr Sutcliffe backwards to the ground, Mr Walmsley retains the grip and twists the upper body of Mr Sutcliffe, including the head and neck of Mr Sutcliffe, with his left arm and body, retaining the firm grip on the neck area throughout.
• As Mr Sutcliffe falls to the ground, he fails to leave space for Mr Sutcliffe’s head and neck and almost the entirety of his bodyweight applies downward pressure on to the neck of Mr Sutcliffe.
• As such, considerable force was applied to the head and neck of Mr Sutcliffe.

With crusher tackles we often see attacking players spinning into contact, backing in and dropping to ground. Mr Sutcliffe does none of these things. The Panel submit Mr Walmsley could have:
• Released his grip and therefore created space to allow the opponent’s head through as he is aware of the position of Mr Sutcliffe and can see that the momentum of Mr Knowles and Mr Roby is taking the Player down, in any event.
• Maintained control of own bodyweight and not landed on Mr Sutcliffe and/or create space for Mr Sutcliffe’s head and neck on landing.
Mr Sutcliffe received treatment on field for a short period.
The referee submitted that it was evident on the field Mr Sutcliffe’s head/neck was trapped in a dangerous position and was awarded with an immediate sin bin.

Summary of Player's submissions on the Charge / evidence:

The player is represented by Mike Rush, CEO and Kristian Woolf, Head Coach. Mr Rush states the Club accept there was some pressure but believe the opponent has come into the position himself and any pressure applied was fleeting. Mr Woolf adds that the player does not utilise the grips associated with these type of tackles indeed his left hand was on the ball and believes that the player has tried to mitigate any pressure which happens in this case. The Clubs submit that this should be graded as a Grade A in line with a comparable incident where Jason Walton of Bradford received the same grade for which the Club believe was a worse incident.

Decision:

Challenge successful. Reduced to a Grade B

Reasons for Decision:

The Tribunal thank both sides for their submissions. They are of the opinion that this charge should downgraded to a Grade B. The Tribunal do not believe that either of the comparison clips were helpful in this instance as both vary in their dynamics. Whilst the Tribunal do not accept the Match Review Panel’s submissions that this was a Grade C, they do believe pressure was applied and that the player had the opportunity to release his grip and let the player go to ground in a safe manner. They therefore think that the appropriate grading is one of a Grade B. Due to the player’s record he receives a 1 match Penalty Notice as he qualifies for the lower end of the Grade B tariff due to his previous record.

Decision On Sanction (where found to have committed Misconduct)

Suspension:

1 Match