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Darcy Swain’s ban is way too light, SANZAAR legal process fails the game


Since French referee Mathieu Raynal blew time in the Bledisloe Cup test last Thursday, it has been a very confusing period for rugby.

In the days that followed, the circumstances surrounding the end of the test match were put to death. What is undeniable though, is that regardless of whether Raynal was right to call out Bernard Foley or not, the Wallabies truly feel this is a game that was unfairly robbed of them.

Predictably, Rugby Australia lobbied World Rugby for an explanation please and, according to Dave Rennie’s account yesterday, found a sympathetic ear. As always though, whenever these things happen, it’s never clear if a mea culpa makes a losing coach feel better or worse; the result will not change.

Another controversial decision of the match surrounded Darcy Swain’s attack on the leg of New Zealand’s Quinn Tupaea; an action that forced an anguished Tupaea from the pitch into a lengthy rehabilitation.

Despite a strong lead from his TMO and compelling video evidence of a foul, Raynal opted to limit Swain’s penalty to a yellow card; a decision that arguably, given Swain’s subsequent leveling and sentencing, reflects Raynal worse than all the fury around the time-wasting.

Darcy Swain of the Wallabies speaks to referee Mathieu Raynal. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

When these types of events occur, the usual practice is for fans to line up on church and national grounds; either protecting the man in their shirt or spitting hell and damnation on the aggressor in the opponent’s shirt.

What’s particularly notable about the Swain case is the impressive objectivity that accompanied much of the backlash from Australian fans, who acknowledged the incident for what it was, not the shirts worn. by Swain and Tupaea.

In an interview with New Zealand radio host Martin Devlin, Wallabies legend David Campese disdained Swain’s behavior, warning of the need to impress upon parents that rugby is a safe game for their children, before to declare; “It was horrible. I would have given it six, seven, eight months.

Campese probably would have found favor with the headline of news.com’s banner yesterday, which read ‘Horrific: Wallabies Star’s Monster Ban’, under which was the copy, ‘Wallabies Forward Darcy Swain had the book thrown at him after a terrible tackle labeled ‘thug’ in controversial Bledisloe Cup thriller.

Campo – and if the reaction of the world’s rugby press is any guide, many more – might well wonder what book Swain was thrown at. The very hungry caterpillar, perhaps? Or Clifford the big red dog?

A three-man panel, led by Andre Oosthuizen SC, determined the following;

“After carrying out a detailed review of all available evidence, having heard from the player and his legal representative, Aaron Lloyd, the Judiciary Committee upheld the citation and found that the incident met the red card threshold for the law. 9.11.”

“With regard to the penalty, the Judiciary Committee found that the act of foul play deserved an average entry point of six (6) weeks. Through the player’s actions such as position, control and movements of the player, they discovered that the incident was unintentional, but very reckless.

“With regard to the penalty, the Judiciary Committee found that the act of foul play merited an average entry point of six (6) weeks.”

“Through player actions such as player position, control and movement, they discovered that the incident was unintentional, but very reckless.”

Because Swain had been shown a red card and suspension in July, for headbutting England’s Jonny Hill, he was not deemed eligible for a ‘reduction’ or reduction. Notably, the sanction was determined in weeks as opposed to games, with a date set for November 6, after which Swain becomes free to return to play.

The accolade is significant as Rugby Australia got a head start on Wednesday’s decision, naming Swain to Australia’s A team which will play three matches in Japan next month.

While Rennie indicated that Swain would have been selected for this tour regardless, by then the move had already been widely criticized as a cynical attempt to outsmart the system.

Perhaps the best that can be said is that this is a real tour, and no club team from Canberra or Brisbane have been forced to go through the charade of getting together for three postseason games that Swain would never have played anyway.

It is important to note that his type of plot is not unique to Australia, but rather reflects the normal desire of any coach to ensure the availability of their best players.

In this case, there was also a strong whiff of the Wallabies calling ‘enough’ and taking matters into their own hands, feeling that they had been handed the end of the stick in Melbourne.

Even so, the kudos given to the Wallabies and Rugby Australia for their intelligence and initiative seem to completely miss Swain’s act, and why he was found guilty and suspended in the first place.

Which brings us back to the question of whether Swain’s suspension is appropriate for the crime, or not?

Forget argues that suspensions should reflect time out of play for players injured as a direct result of foul play. It’s an easy concept to remember, but it’s nothing more than a throwback to the days when the death penalty was seen as mere retribution for murder.

In short, there is no reliable or practical way to apply consistent sentences when future outcomes for a victim – often undetermined at the time of the hearing – are the primary sentencing factor.

But whatever the process, and whatever the arguments put forward by defense lawyers and character witnesses, it is important to the integrity of rugby that players, coaches and fans all believe the system offers not only to give defendants a fair hearing, but that it only imposes sentences when the players are found guilty.

On the face of it, Swain’s six weeks clearly falls within the bounds of what might be considered reasonable. Too light for some, six months too short for Campo, but in terms of World Rugby’s legal framework, in light of Swains’ mid-entry rated action, entirely understandable.

But when is six weeks really six weeks?

Swain is a Rugby Test player. With all the noise and smokescreens removed, his next rugby was scheduled for Saturday in Auckland, followed by the Wallabies end-of-year tour.

By setting an end date to the suspension, Swain and the Wallabies now have the certainty that Swain will be available for the final three Test matches on tour, against Italy, Ireland and Wales.

Six weeks, yes. But three test matches.

Swain’s fault was bad; reckless, with the care and respect not shown to a defenseless adversary. Three games seem light. Much too light.

Too light for the act itself, and too light for a player already sent off for another reckless act this season, to seriously consider the consequences and how he might deal with his football in the future.

SANZAAR’s court process provides flexibility in applying weeks or matches. What usually determines this are varying circumstances such as the time of year; for example, a ten-week suspension in the last game of the year is not the same as a ten-week suspension in the middle of the season.

In this case, the application of weeks, instead of matches, worked in Swain’s favor and resulted in a punishment not fit for the crime. It’s another in a long line of court results that have fans believing that the machinations of the process too often take precedence over common sense.

This frustration is also seen on a regular basis as player after player, after being found guilty, is offered the luxury of a 50% sentence reduction for factors including, but not limited to, a good prior record, the expression of remorse and young age. Additionally, for cases involving high contact, players can replace the last week of their already reduced suspension by going through a coach intervention process.

Whatever the intention, it’s a system that smacks of convenience and breeds cynicism. This season, Melbourne Rebels center Ray Nu’u received the standard six-week sentence reduced to three reduced to two sentences, after being sent off for a high shot against Western Force and then immediately on his return was sent off. again for another top down, this time against Moana Pasifika.

Observers might reasonably have expected the book to be cast on Nu’u; the real book. But the same process applied. Nu’u was deemed just as clean, just as remorseful, and just as young, and his six-week sentence was reduced to three.

Only the additional week for the intervention was missing; after all, Nu’u had just completed it a week before, even though it proved to be obviously ineffective.

This is not to disparage Nu’u, who is a fine and humble young man who will continue to play an important role for the Rebels in 2022. Swain is also likeable, and while he still has a lot of maturity to come, and the wrong he has done on Tupaea cannot be easily brushed aside, he is not an ill-intentioned player who needs to be eliminated from rugby.

But these are just two examples of where a judicial process has allowed itself to slip too far into its own ass and, in doing so, is doing rugby a disservice.

SANZAAR can employ all the QCs, shrewd player defenders, and carefully crafted court cadres he likes. But any system that allows Swain to play in the UK after just three tests is flawed.

Let’s hope Swain takes a good book with him to read on the plane.



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