There’s only six weeks of the NRL regular season remaining, the pressure is on and players are getting antsy. It’s common for tempers to bubble over at this stage of the season as teams become more desperate, and Round 20 witnessed two bizarre biting incidents.
On Friday night, Wests Tigers firebrand Martin Taupau sparked an all-in push-and-shove with an ugly swinging arm on Sydney Roosters playmaker James Maloney. The New Zealand Test forward then exacerbated the situation by feigning a bite on fellow Kiwi Sio Suia Taukeiaho’s arm.
Taupau was sent to the sin-bin, and while the fake bite won’t come under scrutiny from the Match Review Panel, he is almost certain to miss a couple of weeks for the cheap shot on Maloney.
The following night in Napier, Taupau’s Test teammate Jesse Bromwich was accused of biting by St George Illawarra fullback Josh Dugan. The Melbourne prop was taken to ground with Dugan’s arm wrapped around his face, before the NSW Origin custodian reeled away and complained that Bromwich had gnawed on his arm, lodging a complaint with the referee.
Biting incidents are rare in the NRL and the more serious have been harshly punished by the judiciary. Take a trip down memory lane with the Top 10 biting incidents in Australian Rugby League history from Commentary Box Sports reporter Will Evans’ 2013 book The Book of NRL Lists.
1. Frank Farrell
In one of the most infamous and unsavoury incidents in the game’s history, St George forward Bill McRitichie had his ear almost completely severed in a scrum against Newtown during a 1945 first grade encounter. Bluebags prop Frank ‘Bumper’ Farrell, the most feared hard-man of the era, was accused of biting McRitchie’s ear, but was narrowly cleared by the NSWRL due to a lack of evidence. McRitchie spent 22 painful weeks recuperating in hospital, while the larger-than-life policeman ‘Bumper’ cagily maintained his innocence until his death – including claiming he had left his false teeth in the dressing room that day, and therefore could not have been the culprit.
2. James Graham
British prop James Graham chewed his way into the Grand Final hall of infamy at the end of a stellar maiden campaign at Canterbury. An in-goal melee followed Bulldogs winger Sam Perrett’s first half try in the 2012 decider against Melbourne, in which Graham came to grips with Billy Slater and inexplicably latched onto the superstar Storm fullback’s ear with his teeth. Remarkably, Graham escaped on-field sanction for his Mike Tyson-esque act, but the NRL judiciary compounded the blue-and-whites’ 14-4 loss by slapping the overzealous front-rower with a 12-match suspension.
3. Graeme Wynn
Towering St George second-rower Graeme Wynn created history in 1982 by becoming the first player to be suspended for biting by the NSWRL judiciary. The charge arose from a complaint laid by Parramatta’s Ray Price, a teammate of Wynn’s on Australia’s tour of New Zealand two years earlier, who claimed his rival had chomped on his arm. “The act of biting an opposing player shows a total indifference to normal human behaviour,” said hard-nosed judiciary chairman Jim Comans, before handing down a 12-match suspension. The devastated Wynn played another decade of first grade with Saints and Wests, but his career never fully recovered from the half-season ban.
4. Tom Raudonikis
Rugby League Week outed Tom Raudonikis as ‘The Phantom Biter’ in 1976, featuring the hyper-aggressive Western Suburbs legend on its cover with a mask and vampire teeth superimposed – and an accompanying first-person admission – after it was revealed rival Manly halfback Johnny Gibbs had been bitten on the nose. Raudonikis was handed a $200 fine by the NSWRL for bringing the game into disrepute, which RLW gladly paid on the Test No.7’s behalf.
Jarrod McCracken had already proved himself as a firebrand during his rookie first grade season at Canterbury, sent off (along with Australian five-eighth Peter Jackson) for fighting in just his second Test appearance for New Zealand midway through 1991. But a far more severe punishment awaited the 21-year-old centre after he was cited and found guilty of biting Souths winger Ross Harrington during the Bulldogs’ 40-2 late-season win. McCracken copped an eight-match stint on the sidelines, ruling him out until Round 4 of 1992.
6. Brad Morrin
Rugged Bulldogs forward Brad Morrin was handed an eight-game ban after chowing down on Parramatta centre Timana Tahu’s arm in a match late in the 2007 season. The remorseful 25-year-old was rubbed out of the club’s finals campaign, but returned to play a further three seasons at Canterbury. Morrin consequently picked up the nickname ‘The Nibbler’ from fans on the club’s online forum thanks to his brain snap.
7. Grant Izzard
Versatile Grant Izzard’s first grade career came to an abrupt end when he was found guilty of biting tempestuous South Sydney halfback Craig Field. The Illawarra interchange – a former club-mate of older brother and Penrith great Brad, and partnered on the Steelers’ bench this day by another brother, Craig – was outed for six matches in the wake of his side’s 24-12 win in Round 16 of 1993. The suspension ruled Izzard out for the remainder of the season, while he was released by Illawarra at the end of the year.
8. Anthony Watts
A string of off-field disciplinary issues ended the NRL career of aggressive former Cronulla and North Queensland utility Anthony Watts, while injury cruelled a Super League stint at Widnes. He subsequently became involved with notorious bikie gang The Finks after relocating to the Gold Coast. But Watts attracted worldwide media attention in 2013 while playing for Tugun Seahawks in the Gold Coast Rugby League competition, accused of biting an opponent’s penis during a match against Bilambil Jets. Watts vigorously denied the charge, but was nevertheless banned for eight games – and attracted headlines of John Hopoate-proportions around the globe.
9. William Zillman
Gold Coast fullback William Zillman was slugged with a four-match suspension in 2009 after South Sydney winger Jamie Simpson made an on-field complaint regarding an alleged bite on his arm. Zillman vehemently denied the charge, but was found guilty by the NRL judiciary, who subsequently rejected the Titans’ appeal bid.
10=. Peter Ryan
Brisbane’s hit-man backrower Peter Ryan’s rapid progress was momentarily halted during 1994 when he was cited and suspended for three weeks after being found guilty of biting Souths five-eighth Jason Bell. Ryan’s ban soured the Broncos’ comprehensive 40-10 victory, becoming the fourth player from the club to fall foul of the judiciary during a difficult title defence.
10=. Chris Beattie
Fiery Sharks prop Chris Beattie, playing in just his 11th NRL match, received a comparatively lenient two-match suspension after being found guilty of biting Parramatta’s Daniel Wagon early in 2001. The Ipswich product argued the Eels had targeted his broken nose, and that the arm came into contact with his mouth because Wagon put it there. “It stung me because it hit me on the end of the nose and ended up in my mouth. There’s no way I deliberately bit anybody and I wore a mouthguard. Try eating an apple with a mouthguard in,” Beattie pleaded. Despite the setback, Beattie broke into the Queensland side for the Origin series opener just over two months later – with Wagon a fellow Maroons debutant.