Wayne Bennett has defended Newcastle’s decision to question the NRL’s judiciary process and claims the club owed it to Alex McKinnon to make their feelings known.
In a strongly-worded statement issued on Thursday, the Knights blasted the decision to single out Melbourne prop Jordan McLean for his role in the three-man tackle that left McKinnon with a broken neck, saying Jesse and Kenny Bromwich should have also faced a hearing.
There was also anger at suggestions from McLean’s defence counsel on Wednesday that McKinnon may have contributed to his injuries by tucking in his head before he fell to the ground at AAMI Park.
“We made our points about what we believed the process should have been,” Bennett said on Friday.
“We’re entitled to an opinion. We made our position clear, we owed that to Alex and we felt that as a club.”
McLean was slugged with a seven-match suspension for the incident but the NRL revealed on Thursday the tackle was a grade two dangerous throw which carries 325 demerit points – a three-week ban.
A further 400 points were allocated after consideration by the panel on a range of factors including the injury suffered by McKinnon.
But Bennett has called for more transparency from the NRL to explain how injuries are factored into the judicial process and subsequent punishments for players.
Knights prop Kade Snowden was also banned for seven games last year after breaking the jaw of North Queensland’s Ray Thompson with a shoulder charge.
That penalty was increased due to the nature of the injury to the Cowboys hooker, but Bennett claimed there’s too many grey areas in the decision making.
“Maybe it’s been the smoking gun out there that no one really talks about,” he said.
“But it needs to be talked about. We need to make a decision as a sport just how much does injury influence judiciary decisions.
“It has never really been had. It’s been all indoors and behind smokescreens.
“But now it’s out there and I think it’s time to have a debate and recognise if that’s what we want or don’t want.
“It’s a grey area, because its not defined anywhere so its part of the inconsistencies.”
McKinnon’s plight has seen calls for third-man-in tackles to be outlawed from the game and although he stopped short on calling for bans, Bennett acknowledged there are certain things that need to looked be at.
“We’ll have to change the way we look at some of these things,” the seven-time premiership-winning coach said.
“There are a whole range of issues that need to be addressed.
“What I’m in favour of is getting rid of situations where players can get severely injured.
“I’m not apportioning the blame … I’m sure I’ve got enough confidence in the NRL that will be done.”
Bennett visited McKinnon in hospital in Melbourne on Wednesday and said the 22-year-old was reasonably upbeat despite his plight.
“He was in pretty fair spirits and I was pleased to see him and I’m sure he was pleased to see me,” he said.