The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner SC has accepted a guilty plea from Liam Gill of the Reds for contravening Law 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle, after he was cited following a Super Rugby match at the weekend.
Gill has been suspended from all forms of the game for two weeks up to and including 28 March 2015.
The incident occurred in the 47th minute of the match between the Reds and Brumbies played at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on 14 March 2015.
SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner SC assessed the case.
In his finding, Stelzner ruled the following:
“As the Duty Judicial Officer, I considered all of the evidence before me including the video footage, Citing Commissioner’s report, medical information for the Brumbies’ player, Nic White, who was involved in the incident and the submissions made by the player, Liam Gill, and his representatives.
“After taking all relevant facts into consideration, I found the incident to have a lower end entry point for breaching of 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle which stipulates a four-week suspension.
“The incident was indeed a lifting tackle, but given its unusual features, referred to hereafter more fully, it did not warrant an increase from the entry level sanction to serve as a deterrent, which would have been the case had it been the more usual type of ‘tip tackling’ performed on a player running with the ball.
“The lifting tackle in this case occurred in a ruck when the player pulled his opponent, who was lying over the ball, out of the ruck, lifted and turned him through the horizontal over his hip causing his opponent to cart wheel before hitting the ground. The player conceded that the lifting and turning his smaller opponent in this manner placed the opponent at risk of serious injury. The player stated he acted out of frustration and ‘instinctively’ in his attempts to contest for the ball.
“The tackle was reckless, carried with it a real risk of serious injury, but at the same time was not the normal type of lifting tackling referred to above in which the players’ momentum adds to the danger. In this case his opponent did not land on his head as a result of the player twisting and throwing the player over his hip, causing his opponent to fall on his side. There was no driving of the player into the ground nor total disregard for his opponent’s safety. The tackled player was able to continue playing after the incident.
“The player received a yellow card and his side conceded a try in the same phase as the incident and another while he was off the field. His actions and subsequent sanction significantly disadvantaged his team at an important time in the match.
“Mitigating factors taken into account for determining final sanction include the player admitted the offence. He has an exemplary disciplinary record having never been cited before and has represented Australia at both U20 and Test level. His contribution to rugby in general has been outstanding and he clearly expressed remorse for committing the offence and for having tarnished his record with this incident. I considered a 50 per cent reduction in suspension was appropriate after taking these mitigating factors into account. As a result, a two-week sanction was considered to be appropriate.
“The player’s playing schedule is such that the Reds have a bye during Round 6 of Super Rugby followed by a match against the Lions on 27 March 2015. The player was scheduled to be released to play in a club match for his club side Sunnybank in the Queensland Premier Rugby Competition. I asked for direct evidence from the Reds representatives as to the history of Reds players being released to play in club matches and whether other players are also scheduled to play in the bye round.
“The Reds submitted that a bye week at this stage of the season meant players still needed match practice and they would be releasing contracted players to play during the Reds bye. The player himself has played a number of times for Sunnybank when available over recent seasons. Sunnybank play a match on 21 March against Brothers in the Queensland Premier Rugby competition. I accepted that this club match be included in the suspension period and would make a meaningful sanction for the player.
“Accordingly, the player is suspended for two weeks up to and including 28 March 2015.”
All SANZAR disciplinary matters are in the first instance referred to a Duty Judicial Officer hearing to provide the option of expediting the judicial process.
For a matter to be dispensed with at this hearing, the person appearing must plead guilty and accept the penalty offered by the DJO.