Richard Agar’s counter to Michael Carter’s scathing attack on RFL Match Review Panel

Richard Agar has defended the RFL’s Match Review Panel after it came under fire from Wakefield CEO Michael Carter.

The Trinity chief lambasted the panel after Wakefield received two suspensions in their game with St Helens, a match in which Sione Mata’utai also received a ban that will see him miss Saturday’s Challenge Cup Final.

Carter said: “In the eight years I’ve been in charge, I think I’ve only appealed two charges. That’s because it’s impossible to win an appeal unless you’ve enough evidence to free Ronnie Biggs.

“Three people sit there, two of them not saying anything, with no experience of the modern game, an inability to take any sort of mitigation into account, and an overriding ability to just say ‘guilty’. It’s just pointless appealing. They just support the Match Review Panel!!”

However, Agar countered that the issues are within the rulings, rather than the process, defending Paul Cullen, who heads up the panel.

“I maybe have a slightly different take where Match Review Panel is concerned,” Agar said.

“Paul Cullen, I think he’s done a pretty consistent job, sometimes we have to appreciate his hands are tied by the rules that are in place so maybe it’s not Paul’s decisions, because he is up to date on the modern game, I do really strongly believe that.

“The dialogue we have as coaches is always open, honest and positive, even if we widely disagree with the suspensions. At times we can disagree with the gradings, I think that is what we strive for, both him and us in terms of consistency and sometimes it’s hard to get that but I think I’ll reiterate my point, I think Paul is hamstrung by what the rules in the game are and maybe that and the process are what need looking at.”

Agar continued: “I get some of Michael’s frustrations around that and a number of things in the game. Maybe we can have a look at the big picture on the whole moving forward.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, I think Michael Carter was on a steering committee about the whole process not too long ago, so maybe they’ve not listened to Michael and his fellow committee members recommendations.”

Agar reiterated a point he has made in the past regarding the spike in charges and penalties against players making contact with players who have just released the ball.

“The whole thing about hitting players in the back, we’ve got Rhyse Martin down for one this week and I think James Maloney is on the same one. We incurred a couple of penalties at Salford the other week, I think we’ve got to really define the judgement calls on hitting people in the back.

“We’ve got to really protect our halves and going gung ho taking halfbacks out and hitting them late in the back and causing those whiplash injuries is very dangerous.

“But I think there’s a line where a ballplayer is playing at the line, or even front-rowers charging at the line, we don’t want him getting to the next defender.

“We encourage line speed and sometimes it’s happening at such speed and when the defender has almost trodden on a players toes, it’s very difficult not to get yourself set for a tackle and not have a collision, you just can’t get out of it. It’s one like that where we’re like ‘come on.'”

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