NRL fans have been left perplexed after a loophole could see Jared Waerea-Hargreaves play the opening round of next year's season, despite being handed a seven-game ban. Waerea-Hargreaves has served three games of a seven-match ban having been hit with two separate suspensions in the Roosters' round 26 game against the Wests Tigers.
This was set to rule him out of the NRL's opening round in Las Vegas. However, Waerea-Hargreaves has been named in the 30-man preliminary New Zealand squad for the 2023 Pacific Championship Tests next month. If he is named in any of these games, Waerea-Hargreaves will most likely serve out his suspension before the start of the season and will be free to play for the Roosters next year in round one.
New Zealand rugby League boss Greg Peters told The Sydney Morning Herald that Waerea-Hargreaves was always in contention to be picked in the squad and would have been selected even if he wasn't suspended. Waerea-Hargreaves was selected in the New Zealand squad last year for the World Cup, but also missed the first two games due to suspension.
However, this has caused plenty of controversy. Many fans feel Waerea-Hargreaves wasn't going to play for New Zealand and he shouldn't be able to use international games to serve his NRL suspension. Others feel since the squad hadn't already been named, he shouldn't be selected just to serve suspension time.
Others feel Waerea-Hargreaves was potentially going to be selected anyway and there is nothing wrong with the rules as they stand. NRL judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew will have the final say on the matter and whether the international matches can count towards the suspension.
Absolutely taking the piss.
He is unavailable because he is suspended. No one should be available if they can not be picked to play.
— Sunders (@i_csunders) September 17, 2023
Farcical that the NRL operates this way
He's not even close to NZ's best 18
— Archie (@archibaldfoley) September 17, 2023
I think a fairer, more clear cut system is that an NRL suspension applies to NRL games only.
Yes - you may be suspended from the NRL but still allowed to play for your country (& state) but it removes this grey area.
But I’d be fine if these games count for JWH
— Guy (@AdelaideRamPage) September 18, 2023
Under the current rules I have no problem with JWH serving some of his suspension this way. If we are going to continue to have this combined system I think we need something firmer around it. Maybe incumbency is the only way you can use rep games. No system is perfect.
— Brad Rodgers (@Bucksbunnys) September 18, 2023
While I don’t agree with the loop hole, JWH isn’t the first player to use it and won’t be the last
— gemma rogers (@gemma92rogers) September 18, 2023
My take: JWH shouldn't be picked even if he wasn't suspended. NZL don't actually need him- their forwards are more than talented enough to well and truly get the job done without that liability. https://t.co/ZiYd5sydvS
— Allie (@_alliemi) September 17, 2023
If a player is suspended while playing for a club during the NRL competition proper, then the suspension handed down should only be served during the NRL competition proper , end of story .
— Keith from Cartwright (@KeithGeorgeBra1) September 18, 2023
Roosters eliminated after Storm thriller
Waerea-Hargreaves won't be able to serve out his any more of his suspension in this year's season after the Roosters were controversially knocked out against the Storm on Friday night. Although Storm coach Craig Bellamy had to admit his side got lucky with a crucial refereeing blunder from Ashley Klein in his side's 18-13 semi-final win.
The Storm sent the Roosters packing in controversial scenes, after their second try came off the back of a blatant knock-on. Klein allowed play to continue despite having a perfect view of Harry Grant knocking the ball on.
The referee then gave the Storm a penalty not long after, which they used to march downfield and score via Marion Seve. NRL fans and commentators were left fuming over Klein's blunder.
And the drama didn't stop at the knock on. Bellamy couldn't believe his side weren't awarded a penalty in the dying stages when Grant was hit in the face with a high shot. Klein initially missed the high contact, and the Bunker also failed to intervene despite Grant staying down in an attempt to win a penalty.
With the Roosters up 13-12 at the time, a penalty would have given the Storm a shot at goal to make it 14-13. Luckily for Bellamy's men they scored not long after when Will Warbrick latched onto a cross-field kick from Cameron Munster.
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