Star winger adamant he didn’t bite opponent after mammoth suspension

There has been a lot of focus on the disciplinary about Leigh Leopards, Hull KR, Huddersfield Giants and St Helens stars after the Challenge Cup Final and the postponed Round One clash but an incident involving former Wakefield Trinity winger and Bradford Bulls star Jorge Taufua.

The winger was initially charged with Grade F biting and had the initial tribunal to determine his guilt postponed.

The tribunal met on Monday with the Bradford winger hit with a mammoth six match ban but it could have been worse for the winger with the charge downgraded from Grade F to Grade E.

Bradford registered their displeasure and it is not a surprise with the winger adamant that he didn’t bite his opponent.

The minutes show how the tribunal proceeded.

Referee Cameron Worsley submitted evidence explaining how the incident unfolded with the referee report stating as follows:

“In approximately the 33rd minute of the game, Bradford Bulls were in possession of the ball coming away from their goal line approximately 15m out. More specifically, Jorge Taufua (Bradford Bulls – Number 28) was in possession of the ball and carried the ball into several Barrow Raiders tacklers, one which was Jarrod Stack (Barrow Raiders – Number 12).

“As Taufua was being tackled, I saw the arm of Stack around the neck/lower face area of Taufua, I then saw from my angle a clear bite by Taufua to the arm/wrist area of Stack, this caused Stack to react instantly.

“I was in shock at first hence taking my time to process the decision, which is why I only called time off before blowing the penalty; this is common practice for serious foul play. I had concluded I was sending off Taufua as soon as I had seen it but had to control Stack and other players first of all.

“I then spoke to my touch judge, Simon Ellis, who didn’t see anything from his angle which was understandable as I had a clear view from my angle at the opposite side.

“It is also worth noting that I saw a clear bite mark on Stacks forearm/wrist area which consisted of just lower teeth marks, this made sense as I believe Taufua had a gum shield in.

“Taufua also said he did it because Stack put his arm across his face/mouth, he clearly visualised this action too whilst I was de-escalating the situation.

“After I had spoken to my touch judge, Simon Ellis and he had nothing to add, I dismissed Taufua from the field for biting. I restarted the game with a penalty to Barrow for the biting offence.”

Taufua was supported by both Jason Hirst (Bradford Bulls CEO) and Brian Noble (Bradford Bulls consultant) with the winger pleading not guilty.

Per the Minutes Taufua “explained that he was not a dirty player and that the tackle saw the opponents arm cover his airways, however, he did not bite his opponent.

“Any indentation caused to the arm of the opponent would have been caused by the opponent’s arm been used as a lever to bring him to the ground as the tackle was being completed. He reiterated that he did not bite the opponent and that this charge could be a stain on his reputation and character.”

That was supported by both Hirst and Noble who noted the player’s inability to breathe during the incident led to the indentation on Stack’s arm.

The minutes sum up Hirst’s argument as explaining: “The opponent’s forearm is clearly across JT’s open mouth and this would have seen him struggling for air, especially with him wearing a gum shield. The Referee did not react straight away and was at least 12 metres away from a tackle which involved several players.”

Likewise with Noble: “He explained JT was put in a vulnerable position and would have panicked when his airway was blocked by the opponent’s arm. He felt the mark would have been caused by the force been applied by the opponent and that JT did not bite down. He felt that the evidence needs to be unequivocal.”

Despite that the minutes explain the guilty verdict as being down to Worsley being “a very experienced referee” and a “very careful and considered witness”.

The minutes highlight that Worsley “was sure that what he saw was a deliberate bite and was not accidental. In addition, he said that following the incident Jorge Taufua demonstrated the arm in front of his mouth effectively indicating that was the reason why he had bitten Jarrod Stack.

“He said this was not a case of Jorge Taufua being pushed back with an arm in his mouth resulting in teeth marks – he saw Jorge Taufua open his mouth and bite.”

Jarrod Stack’s testimony explained –  “After the incident he said Jorge Taufua pointed at him and said your arm was near my mouth and gestured with his mouth as if biting him saying words to the effect of “what do you want me to do?”

“Tellingly in the Tribunals view, he said he asked the Referee to stop the game because he wanted to show the Referee the mark on his arm and he did not want to continue to play a game against someone who had bitten him. He accepted there was no blood and he received no treatment. The Tribunal accept his evidence. It is consistent with that of the Referee, is consistent with the footage (although the footage does not actually show a bite) and is consistent with his reaction at the time. He was aware of how serious the allegation was against a fellow professional.”

“Jorge Taufua told the Tribunal that he has been a professional player for over 13-years and has never been sent off before. He said he felt an arm placed forcibly on his mouth, blocking his airways and forcing him backwards, the arm being used as a lever. He said he did not bite Jarrod Stack. He said when he spoke afterwards he was trying to say that Jarrod Stack’s arm was in his mouth. He was adamant that he did not bite Jarrod Stack.”

“In all those circumstances the Tribunal have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that we are comfortably satisfied that, albeit in the heat of the moment, Jorge Taufua bit Jarrod Stack on the arm and we find him guilty of the charge.”

“Biting falls under rule 15.1(i) “Behaves any way contrary to the true spirit of the game”, which is self-explanatory in the unacceptable actions which Mr Taufua has inflicted on a fellow player.

“This kind of conduct is not acceptable within the game, such is the grade attached to this action. It is accepted in 1.2 the “Underlying Principles” of the Sentencing Guidelines that “there is no place in the game for players who jeopardise the safety of others by intentional, dangerous or malicious acts.”

“Due to the unnecessary and clear forceful nature of the injury sustained by Mr Stack the panel felt a Grade F charge was appropriate in this case.

“The club maintains there is no clear evidence and no puncture had been caused to the skin of the opponent.

“The reiterated that JT had played Rugby League for 13 years and had a good previous disciplinary record.

Aggravating Factors:
22/05/23 – Dangerous Contact (Grade A – N/A)
24/04/23 – Dangerous Contact (Grade A – N/A)
27/02/23 – Dangerous Contact (Grade B – £250)

Reasons for Decision:
The Tribunal accept that although the bite left a mark the skin was not punctured. They also accept that Jorge Taufua has no previous similar matters and has never previously been dismissed from the field. However, this sort of behaviour is unacceptable and there is no place in the game for such conduct.

“We have regard to the On Field Sentencing Guidelines which Grade biting as E-F. For the reasons set out above we find this is a Grade E offence but as there can be no credit for plea we impose a 6-match suspension. In addition, we impose a fine of £375.”