EDITOR’S COLUMN | Why is rugby league so consistently inconsistent?

After Zak Hardaker was handed a 14-month drug ban, Sean Hayes looks at the inconsistencies littering our sport.

It’s one of the most talked about stories in rugby league this week, so it is no surprise that the latest edition of the editor’s column centres around Zak Hardaker’s drug ban.

The England international and former Castleford Tigers star was handed a 14-month ban from the sport, following a positive test prior to the 2017 Grand Final.

With the ban back dated to September, when the trace of cocaine was found in a urine sample, the fullback is not allowed to join a club until 7th November.

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Wigan Warriors are the favourites to snap up the 26-year-old, however the big question is – why is his ban only 14 months?

The UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) website lists all current sanctions in all sports, with Hardaker gaining the accolade of being the latest entry. A quick scroll down the page and you will find former Widnes Vikings halfback Rangi Chase, who is also currently serving a drugs ban.

The two cases are identical.

Both rule violations state there was a ‘presence of a prohibited substance or its metabolites or markers in an athlete’s sample’.

Both state the class of drug as a ‘stimulant’.

Both state the substance as ‘Benzoylecgonine’.

Yet, there is a massive difference in the sanction of the two, as Chase will serve 10 more months than his counterpart Hardaker. That got me thinking, inconsistencies are all too common in rugby league, so much so that we shouldn’t be surprised at all by the difference in the bans.

Every week the disciplinary panel comes up with a different interpretation of how many games a certain ban should carry.

Earlier in the season, Warrington Wolves halfback Dec Patton was handed a five-game ban, and while his swinging arm was reckless and ended Bureta Faraimo’s game, there was no malice involved.

Later in the year, Hull FC wide man Faraimo was red carded for a high tackle on Chris Atkin in the Good Friday derby, yet his ban was significantly less as he missed just one match.

Our referees interpret the game in a different way week on week, with the handling of the ruck being just one example.

And, if that isn’t enough, fans are subjected to baffling obstruction calls in almost every single fixture, as no-one can seem to agree on whether players have been impeded or not.

It is incredible that as a sport, we have so many inconsistencies and different interpretations of events on a weekly basis.

An accumulation of all of the above issues leads to fans and coaches blaming officials, officials blaming coaches, supporters claiming certain clubs get preferential treatment and a whole lot of complaining in the middle.

Some complaints may well be valid, but will we ever get to a stage where we are all on the same page? Somehow, I can’t picture that happening any time soon.

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