This week Leeds Rhinos, Hull FC, Hull KR and Leigh Leopards stars were in trouble with the disciplinary but the big story was about former Wakefield Trinity winger and Bradford Bulls star Jorge Taufua.
The winger was recently sent to tribunal over a Grade F charge of biting which at tribunal was reduced to Grade E but still yielded a six match ban.
The Bulls appealed the suspension this week but the ban was upheld.
Now Bradford Bulls CEO Jason Hirst has issued a statement slamming the current disciplinary procedures with the evidence required to charge Taufua low.
He 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.