Melbourne Storm and Maroons backrower Felise Kaufusi has escaped suspension after an ‘outrageous’ elbow to the face by Sydney young gun Sam Walker, a huge boost for Queensland’s State of Origin campaign.
Early in the second half of Storm’s 26-18 win, 19-year-old Walker tried to tackle a raging Kaufusi.
As they fell to the ground, Kaufusi landed on top of the young Roosters. And when Walker’s head hit the ground, Kaufusi’s right arm—carrying the ball—smashed into Walker’s head.
And, crucially, Kaufusi appeared to raise his arm at the last minute, in what could be considered a deliberate act. But the NRL judiciary viewed the incident as a low-level charge of dangerous contacts, fined just $1800 for an early conviction. The result leaves Kaufusi free to play in Game 2 of the State of Origin series – despite the star having a “history” of dangerous elbow antics.
A year ago, Kaufusi was banned for two weeks for a similar elbow incidentwhere he punched his forearm in the head of Eels star Ryan Matterson – although Matterson was the ball carrier on that occasion.
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On Saturday night, Greg Alexander referred to that previous moment when he said on Fox League: “He does have history. Do you think he moved that elbow? Okay, I’ll say, I think he meant what we saw. He knew exactly what he did.”
Andrew Voss replied: “He knew what he was doing. He knew where his forearm was in relation to the defender. That’s another one for after the game (review).”
The duo were not alone in expressing concern over the Storm star’s actions.
The Daily Telegraph journalist Buzz Rothfield tweeted: “The sequel while Walker was on the floor was outrageous.”
Walker’s face was bloodied from the incident and he was immediately taken off the field for an HIA – although he would subsequently pass the concussion test.
But the referee and video referee seemed to miss the incident, for which 30-year-old Kaufusi avoided a penalty or any subsequent penalty.
Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy said he believed the NRL’s video referees “would have intervened” if Kaufusi had broken the rules.
“I didn’t see it, I don’t really look at the screen, I watch what happens on the pitch, so I didn’t really see what happened, but I don’t think he was punished for that,” said Bellamy. †
“So you think if there was something wrong with it, the Bunker would have intervened.
“I remember Sam leaving, but I can’t remember, I didn’t know what happened. So at the end of the day I’m not going to comment on something I haven’t seen and you would think the Bunker would have picked it up if it wasn’t within the rules.”
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Kaufusi was generally considered lucky as he was only given a two-week suspension before the incident last season forcing Matterson to miss several weeks due to the effects of the concussion.
“I thought it was shameful, cowardly and I thought the NRL showed no courage at all,” said Paul Kent on NRL 360 at the time.
“Two weeks in prison for that? I think we’ve been talking about concussion and player safety and the long-term damage caused by knockouts for a few years now and yet we see an incident like this. He will not be sent away or ten in the sin-bin… He should be sent away and he would have to wait six to eight weeks.”
NSW coach Brad Fittler also said the punishment was insufficient, telling 2GB’s Wide World of Sports radio, “Four to six weeks might have been a little better.”
Kaufusi has never admitted guilt or apologized to Matterson for the incident.
On Saturday, the Storm star delivered a great try for debutant Grant Anderson early in the game against the Roosters, before scoring one himself in the second half.
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