‘We would be heading towards a totalitarian system’ – Leeds Rhinos boss Richard Agar fears ‘frivolous challenge’ decision could have repercussions

Leeds Rhinos were met with the news on Tuesday night that forward James Bentley would be handed a four-match ban, having it upgraded from a three-match suspension.

Leeds were punished for a ‘frivolous challenge’ by the RFL’s Disciplinary Match Review Panel and now head coach Richard Agar has had his say on the issue, bemoaning the upgrade.

“The frivolous challenge part of it is the only disappointment,” Agar said.

“At the start of the year with the directives coming around, we understand the reasons why the game has got to change its look a little bit and we have got to look at our behaviour and techniques.

“I don’t think you will find anyone in the game against that which is why we are consistently taking advice from the referees and Paul Cullen and we’ve employed a former grade one referee for that.

“James got the tackle wrong, we’ve got no qualms with the send off but it’s probably important to say after we’ve had our meetings we would say we wouldn’t defend it because we need to change our behaviours so when James Donaldson got one on Boxing Day we didn’t defend him.”

Agar also took into account other tackles made during the game as one of the motives to take the Bentley tackle to an appeal.

“We defended James’ on the other tackles that got graded within the game.

“We took into consideration a number of factors. we got advice from two people and in any realm they would be considered experts on the respective gradings in the game.

“We’d looked at the tackles, Ben Currie’s tackle – I don’t want to throw him under the bus he’s a great guy and not a dirty player.

“But in comparison with the other two gradings the other guy (David Fusitu’a) was concussed and he’s not been great this week.

“The challenge wasn’t penalised and they’ve graded it an A and Oliver Holmes was a B.

“Given we felt that Gareth Widdop had lost his feet and dipping and James was going at speed and with force, we felt we didn’t agree with the clenched fist and we proved that – his arms were outstretched and it wasn’t a swinging arm which the judiciary panel agreed with.

“There was a reckless element to it and we were challenging the grading.

“I don’t think that falls into the category of frivolous – I felt we had a carefully considered points from expert feedback around all the challenges so we felt it was worthy of a challenge.

“We weren’t challenging the send off or sanctions merely the severity in comparison with the other tackles.”

The Leeds boss believes that the ‘frivolous challenge’ decision could open a real can of worms.

“I get afraid to talk about it and not be transparent.

“If we get to a point where we don’t challenge – if we fear more punishment – we would be heading towards a totalitarian system.

“I don’t want to get to the point where I can’t talk about and we can’t challenge it because we wouldn’t want an unregulated system – we wouldn’t that for the health of the sport.”

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