Leeds Rhinos head coach Brian McDermott says rugby league is struggling to “make the distinction between thugs and bravehearts.”
He was, admittedly, pleased with the way an independent disciplinary panel handled his player Jamie Peacock’s case after he was charged with punching in the game against Leigh Centurions.
The ex-England captain was fined £300 for fighting with Matt Sarsfield in an incident which saw both sin-binned.
But the Leeds prop argued extreme provocation – the Leigh player hit him high, flopped and then forced his head into Peacock’s while on the ground.
His unblemished record also stood him in a good light and he escaped without a ban so is free to play Huddersfield Giants at Headingley tonight.
It is remarkable that the 36-year-old forward has never been suspended in his career and McDermott admitted: “That had a massive bearing; you can’t fail to recognise that.
“(But) there is a sense of frustration of why he was even called up. Our game has never really made a distinction between the thug and a braveheart.
“It almost seems to be making too strong a point on the people who retaliate and not enough about the people who are the actual instigators.
“Leigh had a strategy to win the game. They felt they couldn’t deal with JP’s open and honest game where he just runs as hard as he can and keeps as fit as he can so he can longer than anybody else.
“Leigh concede they can’t do that so what they do is wait until he is on the floor and cheap shot him and head butt and try to get him to retaliate and get sent off.
“While ever those thugs aren’t being made accountable, you will always give those thugs the motivation to do it.”
Strangely, the match review panel opted against even making a charge of any kind against Sarsfield.
“It’s unbelievably frustrating,” added McDermott.
“It was a head-scratching moment when they said the Leigh player wasn’t acting against the spirit of the game.”
McDermott is now more concerned with the prospect of seeing his side return to some form after being “concerned” by their recent offerings.
The leaders have lost two of their last three Super League games – at Warrington and Wigan – while part-timers Leigh were level 12-12 going into the final 10 minutes of their Challenge Cup quarter-final last Friday.
Leeds, so prolific earlier in the season, have certainly lulled somewhat and lost some of their creative spark perhaps not surprising given they have been without Rob Burrow and, more latterly, Danny McGuire.
They are both absent again tonight as is dynamic full-back Zak Hardaker who starts a five-game ban and, so, offers the frustrated Ben Jones-Bishop the chance of a decent stretch in the team.
But, furthermore, Huddersfield clearly has Leeds’s measure given they are undefeated in their last six meetings and have won on each of their last three trips to Headingley.
“They are a very good team,” admitted McDermott, with Huddersfield’s last victory over champions Wigan Warriors a sign they are returning to their 2013 League Leaders Shield winning form.
“We’ve had a good week’s preview on them.
“They’ve got one of the most balanced squads in the game if you look at their attack lines, the strength of their pack, the potency of their outside backs and some fantastic halves.
“If you go back to Jon Sharp, they’ve had a very aggressive recruitment strategy where they’ve gone out and paid some decent money for some good players and they’ve been doing it ever since,” he said.
“The addition of Brett Ferres has really added not just a new attacking dimension but given their whole pack a bit of presence. They’ve got our respect.”
That is undoubted but Leeds’s proud 100 per cent home record this season is sure to come under threat regardless.
Castleford Tigers have signed Samoa prop/second-row Junior Moors, 27, from Melbourne Storm on a three-year deal starting next season.
Coach Daryl Powell is also closing in on deals for London Broncos duo Matt Cook and Scott Moore for 2015.
Hull KR coach Craig Sandercock has dropped vice-captain Kris Welham for tomorrow night’s visit of Warrington Wolves due to form issues with the England Knights centre.