Case Number:

RLWC/50/21

Jaimin Jolliffe #10, Ireland

Competition:

Men's Rugby League World Cup

Match:

Lebanon v Ireland

Match Date:

2022-10-23

Incident:

Reckless contact with the head/neck of your opponent with your shoulder/upper arm

Decision:

Charge

Charge Detail:

Rule: 15.1(b) Detail – Law 15.1 (b) - When tackling or attempting to tackle makes contact with the head or neck of an opponent Grade: A

Fine:

N/A

Sanctions:

1 Match Penalty Notice

Decision On Charge

Player plea:

Not guilty

Summary of CM's submissions on the Charge / evidence:

Following a Match Review Panel meeting held on 24 October 2022, you are charged with misconduct for a breach of Law 15.1(b) – When tackling or attempting to tackle makes contact with the head or neck of an opponent of the RLWC2021 On Field Compliance Procedures and Sentencing Guidelines (a copy of which are attached to this letter) during the above Match. The Panel reviewed an incident which occurred in approximately the Opta Time 28 29 of the above Match. The incident was placed on report by the match referee. In the Panel’s opinion you made reckless contact with the head/neck of your opponent with your shoulder/upper arm. The Panel believed that your actions were contrary to the true spirit of the game and had the potential to cause your opponent injury. In accordance with the RLWC2021 On Field Compliance Procedures and Sentencing Guidelines, the Panel consider that such offence is a Grade A offence – High Tackle – Reckless - Reckless – tried to tackle but reckless about outcome In accordance with RLWC2021 On Field Compliance Procedures and Sentencing Guidelines, the Match Review Panel consider that this matter should be dealt with by way of a Notice of Charge. As such, the appropriate sanction is determined with reference to Section 7.1 of the RLWC2021 On Field Compliance Procedures and Sentencing Guidelines under which the Normal Suspension Imposed for this offence is 1 Match. Referee concerned placed on report • Incident is placed on report. • Opponent is returning the ball following a penalty restart. • Player comes out of the line at speed prior to contact. • Contact is initial to the opponent’s head with the shoulder/upper arm of Mr Jolliffe. • This is evident on the footage as the head goes backwards upon impact and does not come forward which would be the case if contact was initially with the shoulder/upper body of the opponent. • Mr Joliffe is high coming into contact with the opponent. • The opponent is not at an unreasonable height going into contact. • It is accepted that Mr Jolliffe is attempting to complete a tackle. • The player has time to ensure he does not make contact with the opponent’s head. No adaptions are made in this regard. • Actions are unnecessary and avoidable. • The contact is forceful. • Potential for serious injury. Opponent leaves the field for a Head Injury Assessment upon further assessment and does not return. The appeal is whether the original Judiciary Panel came to a decision that no reasonable body could have reached. The RLWC MRP believe it is clear a reasonable body could reach this decision given the evidence provided within the footage, which shows clear contact with head/neck of the opponent. In respect of the audio, this is irrelevant to his particular case. The RLWC MRP deal with acts of misconduct, not decisions by on field officials. All the evidence intended to be relied on is noted in the initial letter sent to Ireland. The judiciary have the benefit of all the evidence provided to make an informed decision. The charge is brought based on the footage available of which the MRP are entirely satisfied.

Summary of Player's submissions on the Charge / evidence:

Present are Joe O’Callaghan (JO) Assistant Coach and Adam Bates (AB) Team Manager. JO thanks everyone for their time this evening, as stated last night, he appreciates the job of the RLWC MRP and time taken by those on the call this evening. It is stressed the reason for appeal is coming from a place of common sense, and it is accepted charges from the same game for another player were correct. Ireland have decided not to involve the player in the hearing this evening, as he is not in an emotional state to appear due to how he felt after the hearing yesterday. The player is a young man potentially missing an international test, both his parents have travelled to watch him play. The Judiciary yesterday praised Ireland about their professional approach and how they set up their appeal. They do not believe that the same diligence was shown in return. They believe no reasonable body could come to such a decision due to the lack of clear evidence. They feel, as the Chair noted they have provided significant evidence and explanation, and do not believe the same diligence was received in return. They have appealed in order for a fresh pair of eyes and ears to see and listen. We will accept whatever decision is reached this evening, but there is a general belief the player has been done wrong and is not guilty of the offence. It is stated they do not feel the need to go through the presentation again that was presented yesterday. JO states they do not feel any credibility was shown to his profession and background in the way the tackle technique was broken down and was not reckless. The videos and stills shown clearly show a bend at the knee and back going into contact, and that the lead foot is central to the body of the opponent. Disagree that there was no effort or change in line speed or attempt to lower his height as asserted by initial Panel. Also added belief there was no credibility given to the 160 games played by the player who has never been found guilty of a similar offence supporting the technique taught as a professional front rower. MRP stated direct contact was initially made with head/neck area in a reckless manner. At the end of the initial hearing Panel found contact was made at the shoulder and slid up and made contact across the face of the player. We find this contradictory to the original skeleton argument. We cannot see there is clear evidence from the footage shown to support this. Refuted that the 2 angles shown at high speed, shows there is a high probability that is what occurred. Original collision occurred from whiplash motion. Stated that the findings of the Panel yesterday acknowledged that they could see initial sideways and forward motion following contact, however due to a forearm across the face this causes the head to go backwards. Believe this is contradictory and confusing. Finally, there was no acknowledgement of the MRP skeleton argument or Judiciary to the evidence presented that the on-field referee states both verbally and using hand signals that he believed the tackle was across the shoulders and the tackle was OK. If the player had not stayed down play would likely have continued. The video referee also chooses not to take further actions, indicating support to on-field referee. Belief this was put on report due to the injury not because of the act. Disappointed this was not referred to during the findings. JO states the decision was based on emotion because of the injury that occurred, and the stigma around concussion currently in RL. Stated again the charge is a reckless high tackle that makes contact with the head/neck area. Given the reasons stated regarding the process do not believe sufficient evidence was provided that shows there is a high probability or without doubt that this occurred. JO shows stills of the initial contact time stamped. Added that it is appreciated at fast speed this may look like contact to the head. Photo A shows arm wrapping around opposition player, to wrap up the ball carrier and ensure control after contact. Photo B shows the players shoulder 30-40cm away from head/neck region of the opposing player. Photo C shows wrapping motion of arm not cocked, the red jersey of the opponent can be seen above the arm showing contact was below head/neck area. A bend of the back can be seen to show the players attempt to lower his height. Lead leg is central, not to the side, and this shows clearly, he had changed stride to a shortened step as he was coming into contact. Player’s feet never leave the ground, proving technically he does change stride as he is approaching contact. Believes this classifies as sufficient evidence. Refuted, as highlighted by video footage, the initial decision that the arm slides up after initial contact across the face of the opposition player. In all the years at both semi and elite level JO states he has never seen such a lack of evidence to find a player guilty of a charge, especially given the positive acknowledgements from the initial Panel regarding their presentation. The time that passed between the audio request and this being received was over 12 hours. This was not received until 2.30pm on the day of the initial hearing. A large part of their appeal is based on the idea that the injury occurred due to whiplash which caused the concussion. The skeleton argument did refer to the injury, therefore it was felt important that this was addressed. In no way is there an attempt to deny a concussion occurred, this explanation used to further support this was not a reckless tackle with contact to head/neck area.

Decision:

Guilty – 1 match penalty notice upheld, appeal dismissed

Reasons for Decision:

The Panel thank all parties for their submissions and add that a full written ruling will follow tomorrow. In this appeal the Panel must decide whether the initial decision was one no reasonable body could have reached and whether this was within the bounds of being reasonable. This is a high bar. It is found that the tribunal acted fairly in a procedural sense, the skeleton argument was provided by the RLWC MRP, and the charges were made clear. The Tribunal yesterday considered the footage, audio, and submissions from all parties. This evening the Appeals Panel have reviewed the footage and heard submissions from all parties. It is clear in their view that the Tribunal took reasonable steps to firstly decide whether there was contact with the head/neck area and then went on to consider whether this was reckless. The Appeals Panel have concluded it was entirely reasonable that contact was made initially with the shoulder and then contact with the jaw/cheek area occurred. It is found this was avoidable and there was a risk taken in making such a tackle. It is found that the decision made was entirely reasonable bearing the burden and standard of proof. The appeal is therefore dismissed, and the initial 1 match penalty notice imposed will stand. The Appeals Panel thank Ireland for their eloquent submissions and reiterate full written reasons will be provided to Ireland the following day.

Decision On Sanction (where found to have committed Misconduct)

Summary of CM's submissions on the appropriate sanction:

N/A

Suspension:

1 match penalty notice upheld, appeal dismissed

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