Increasing James Bentley’s ban goes against ‘natural justice’ says Leeds Rhinos chief Gary Hetherington
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Bentley was sent off early in last Saturday’s Betfred Super League round one defeat by Warrington Wolves.
The RFL’s match review panel subsequently charged him with a grade C high tackle and issued a three-game penalty notice, which is the maximum punishment for that level of offence.
Rhinos challenged that, but a disciplinary hearing upheld the charge and added another match after deeming the appeal ‘frivolous’.
Bentley, a high-profile recruit in the off-season from St Helens, made his debut against Warrington.
He will now miss a home game against Hull, as well as Friday’s trip to Wigan Warriors, the visit of Catalans Dragons a week tomorrow and derby at Wakefield Trinity seven days after that.
Rhinos have not disputed the red card, accepting the tackle on Gareth Widdop was high, but felt the grading was too severe.
Mitigating circumstances raised by the club are understood to include the fact no injury was caused and the Warrington man was falling down when he was struck.
Asked for his view on the outcome of the appeal, Hetherington said Rhinos were confident they had a strong case which was backed up by expert advice.
“We spent much of [Tuesday] fielding calls from irate fans, sponsors and some former players, all complaining about the lack of clarity over the RFL disciplinary process,” he said.
“For the James Bentley ban, it was decided to appeal against the grading of the charge, but only after using the services of a recently retired grade one referee who gave his own advice and guidance to us.
“That was supported by new video and photographic evidence which disproved the charge against the player of using a clenched fist and swinging arm.”
Hetherington added: “The RFL disciplinary have ruled that our appeal was a frivolous one and have subsequently increased the ban on the player to four games.
“In our opinion, this raises the whole issue of appeals and does appear to fly in the face of natural justice.”
Warrington’s Oliver Holmes, who was sin-binned for a grade B high tackle on James Donaldson, also had his ban increased by a game for an allegedly frivolous appeal.
He was initially suspended for one match.
Rhinos will be without winger David Fusitu’a for Friday’s game under the sport’s concussion protocol.
He failed a head injury assessment at half-time after being hurt in a tackle by Ben Currie which was not penalised at the time.
The match review panel subsequently charged Currie with a grade A high tackle and issued a zero-game penalty notice, which means he is available for tomorrow’s visit of Castleford Tigers.
Rhinos did not appeal against a one-match suspension handed to hooker Brad Dwyer for grade A dangerous contact.
Though that was the same grade as Currie’s offence, Dwyer received a sterner punishment because of his past record.
Bentley was one of three Super League players dismissed last weekend as part of an RFL crackdown on contact to the head and tackles after the ball has been passed.
Donaldson received a two-game suspension and Blake Austin one for dangerous contact in pre-season matches.