This week Leeds Rhinos, Hull FC, Hull KR and Leigh Leopards stars were in trouble with the disciplinary but the big story was when former Wakefield Trinity winger and Bradford Bulls’ star Jorge Taufua’s ban was upheld after an appeal.
Taufua was charged with a Grade F for biting recently and went to tribunal where he had the grade dropped to Grade E but was still hit with a massive six game ban.
Bradford appealed the decision but the ban stood and the Bulls are not happy about it including stand in coach Lee Greenwood.
“First and foremost, it’s not something that we wanted to happen. The moment we got the referee’s report through; we always felt like we were on the backfoot struggling, but as a club we had to and wanted to defend our player,” Greenwood said to Telegraph and Argus.
He added: “We’ve now done that, but we’ve also taken it as far as we can by the looks of things. We don’t agree with the decision, obviously, but there’s nothing else we can do because that’s life and it’s just unfortunate.
“I’ve not been involved with the hearings, so it’s difficult for me to comment, however when it was initially given as a Grade F charge the club attended that hearing with Jorge, and obviously we completely disputed that decision.
“My impression of the Grade F charge was that they’d got Jorge down for an intentional bite, which clearly there was no evidence of that whatsoever; it just wasn’t the case, so after contesting that hearing the charge got brought down to a Grade E, which I wasn’t quite sure what that meant overall.
“If Grade E meant that it was a bite because a player had put their arm in your mouth, but without the intention to bite someone, then maybe we’d have plead guilty to that and got a four-game ban instead. However, that’s out the equation now because we put that point forward on Tuesday and whoever was conducting the hearing that day ultimately decided to stick with a six-game ban and the fine. There’s nothing more we can do.”
Meanwhile, CEO Jason Hirst said:
“The Bradford Bulls are bitterly disappointed, dismayed and shocked at the outcome of the Jorge Taufua disciplinary hearing and subsequent appeal.
Jorge has played approaching 200 matches of elite Rugby League in both the southern and northern hemispheres and has never previously been sent off. More importantly, he is a first class human being and this decision now represents a serious stain on his character and a thoroughly respectful and honest career.
Both Jorge and the club recognise and appreciate the seriousness of the accusation and the reputational damage it causes our great sport. Given that seriousness, we are of the view the burden of proof needs to be unequivocal and not simply on the balance of probabilities. Frankly, in our view, it is unacceptable to be staining the reputation of anyone like this, simply based upon “the balance of probabilities”, which is a very low evidential bar to reach.
To be clear, we have not been presented with or seen any unequivocal evidence of Jorge biting anyone. There was no movement towards anyone’s arm and no deliberate biting action from Jorge. What we have seen is an opposition player’s forearm across Jorge’s face and mouth, which is of course contrary to the rules of the sport. That action went unpunished. Put simply, Jorge has been banned on the word of others.
We are not condoning foul play; we are not condoning appropriate punishment where guilt is clearly and demonstrably proven. We are gravely concerned that where substantial career threatening sanctions are imposed, the evidential burden needs to be greater than the “balance of probabilities”.
Regardless of all that, we now have to “accept” the 6 match ban imposed.
Despite our ultimate unsuccessful attempts to have the ban overturned, we would do the same again, given the same circumstances, as despite the cost incurred, it’s morally important to our club and our fans that we stand by and represent our own where we feel there has been a miscarriage of justice, such as this. We are, therefore, proud of our defence of Jorge, who we continue to support and who, in our opinion, is innocent of the charges brought.
To be clear, we are raising what we believe to be a serious procedural concern that extends beyond this one individual case. We would, therefore, urge the RFL to review its current procedures in cases such as this and we would be happy to contribute to that process review, if invited.
The ban is undoubtedly a huge blow to both Jorge and the club, but we will use it to further galvanise our team and club, as we target the end of season play-offs. Reaching them would mean Jorge could (if selected) still feature in 1-3 matches for the Bradford Bulls this season.
I urge our loyal fan base to continue to noisily back the club, team, it’s players and particularly Jorge. It’s in times of adversity when we learn about ourselves and others and really need to unite as one, which I’m sure we’ll do.
The club will now draw a line under this topic, with no further public comment, as we strive to finish the season successfully.