The NRL’s referees have been under fire all season for their reluctance to use the send-off option for glaring instances of foul play – instead taking the easy way out and putting players on report – but Canberra prop David Shillington made it a straightforward decision for whistleblower Jared Maxwell in Monday’s extraordinary clash with Wests Tigers.
Former Test star Shillington, who made his 200th first grade appearance in the match, coughed up possession inside the final minute to virtually extinguish the Raiders’ chances of victory at 20-18 down.
Current Kangaroos front-rower (and first-class niggler) Aaron Woods gave Shillington the customary ‘congratulatory’ head-pat – and the Gold Coast-bound veteran took exception.
After missing with what appeared to be a head-first lunge at Woods as the scrum was packing, Shillington unloaded with an unmistakable head-butt on his opposite during the ensuing scuffle in the most astonishing brain-snap of the season.
Maxwell had no hesitation in marching Shillington, who became the first player sent off in the NRL since Newcastle prop Kade Snowden broke North Queensland utility Ray Thompson’s jaw with a shoulder charge in Round 24 of 2013.
With only four rounds of the season remaining and head-butts usually attracting a decent stint on the sidelines courtesy of the judiciary, Shillington’s 127th game for the Raiders may have been his last ahead of his move to the Titans at the end of the year.
The seesawing encounter, which featured some mind-blowing long-range tries as fullbacks James Tedesco and Jack Wighton duelled spectacularly, effectively ended the Raiders’ finals hopes as the struggling Tigers look to piece together a late-season renaissance.