NSW great Andrew Johns has expressed disbelief at Queensland star Felise Kaufusi’s State of Origin let-off by the NRL judiciary.
Tripping used to rate alongside eye-gouging as a cardinal sin in rugby league, Blues coach Brad Fittler said, yet Kaufusi will be free to play the series opener.
“In years gone by, back in the catch-and-kill era in the ’70s, a trip was an automatic send-off and you would get suspended for a long time,” Johns said on Wide World of Sports’ Freddy and the Eighth.
Origin Special: Freddy & The Eighth – Round 13
“So you can hit someone in the face with a feather [these days] and get three weeks, but you trip someone and get off.”
Storm back-rower Kaufusi was found not guilty of a trip on Broncos hooker Jake Turpin, having been charged after Melbourne’s win last Thursday. Kaufusi was facing a one-match ban; it would only have been a fine had he not had loading from two recent non-similar charges.
Turpin was not brought to ground by the supposed trip. Kaufusi, who was laying on the ground and had his leg stuck out, argued that he was simply trying to get up after a Broncos offload and didn’t even make contact with Turpin.
Fittler said that Turpin staying on his feet may have helped Kaufusi be cleared.
“The bloke didn’t fall over, so does it become … do you get off tripping and it’s more striking, like he’s just kicked him?” Fittler asked.
Johns replied: “If I tried to hit you with an axe and it doesn’t happen, free to go. They’re the rules, apparently.”
Kaufusi in hot water over trip
Kaufusi was adamant that he didn’t touch Turpin, saying at his hearing: “I don’t know what you’re seeing, because there is no contact.”
Yet former Queensland player Ben Ikin was stunned that Kaufusi escaped the charge.
“As a Queenslander, I’m flabbergasted that he will be available for our team,” Ikin said on NRL 360. “Happy. Happy, happy.”
Queensland coach Paul Green said before the hearing: “People say he’s a repeat offender but you can’t hang a bloke for everything he’s done wrong. He’s got charged for tripping and I don’t think Turpin even fell over.”
Kaufusi has had a controversial season, having served a two-week ban for an elbow/forearm strike that left Eels player Ryan Matterson concussed. He refused to apologise for the incident, which Fittler said should have drawn a longer suspension.
“We’re at a place with knowing more about our bodies and our brains,” Fittler said at the time on Wide World of Sports radio.
“Careless and reckless things that happen in a game – you need to come down harder. Four to six weeks might have been something better.
“All of a sudden your coach isn’t backing you, saying that was stupid and you’re going to cost the team.”
Kaufusi, who struck Matterson as he lay on the ground after a tackle, said: “It’s just one of those things that happened in the game.
“There was no intent and unfortunately he has had some previous head-knock injuries.
“I love being aggressive, playing hard but obviously well within the rules. Unfortunately, that one did hit him over the head but I don’t go out there to intentionally hurt someone.”
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