Is Sonny Bill Williams a protected species?
You’d think not, given the fact the NRL banned him for five years after walking out on the Bulldogs.
Furthermore, they only registered his contract with the Roosters a week before this year’s opening match and did so grudgingly.
But SBW’s five years away from rugby league means his judiciary record has been expunged.
Based on the NRL’s view of an incident in the Roosters-Storm match at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night, it is likely to stay that way.
Take a look at a 41st-minute crusher tackle where Melbourne’s Jason Ryles carried the ball forward. The big prop was tackled, with one Roosters’ player going low and SBW high.
Ryles spins his body in the tackle, so that his back is facing the Roosters’ goal posts. SBW grabs at Ryles’ upper body, with his left hand holding Ryles’ jumper and his right hand on the ball.
By this stage Ryles is almost squatting on his behind when SBW jerks him backwards and upwards.
SBW then lifts both his own feet off the ground, propelling himself forward with his entire body off the ground, allowing his full weight to come down on Ryles, with the intention of compressing Ryles’ head onto his chest. Fortunately, Ryles managed to extricate his head slightly to the left, lessening the direct impact.
The referee took no action, oblivious to the horrified looks of Ryles’ teammates. It followed another crusher tackle on Ryles, only two tackles earlier, when the Roosters’ Aidan Guerra was penalised. Both tackles occurred in the opening minute of the second half.
If the referees missed SBW’s crusher tackle, South Sydney coach Michael Maguire didn’t.
After Monday night’s game, when the Rabbitohs’ Sam Burgess was penalised for a 34th minute crusher tackle on the Sharks’ Andrew Fifita, Maguire wondered whether the SBW tackle could be used as a defence to mitigate the penalty to Burgess.
Both Burgess and Guerra were charged with grade 1 dangerous contact – ”unnecessary head/neck pressure” – but SBW was not.
NRL general manager of football operations, Nathan McGuirk, confirmed that the Match Review Committee had studied the SBW tackle and forwarded Fairfax Media the committee’s report.
It stated: ”S.B. Williams applied pressure with his body to the head/neck of J. Ryles as he took him to the ground. Head not pinned. No excessive flexion of the neck upon hitting the ground. Concerning act. Could have been penalised.”