Wests Tigers vs Cowboys referee controversy, penalty decision: James Graham loses it on Triple M


Of all the angry reactions to Sunday’s NRL debacle in Townsville — and there were plenty to choose from — James Graham’s takes the cake.

The former Bulldogs and St George front-rower came steaming off the back fence like he did in his playing days as he said what everyone was thinking when the Wests Tigers were robbed of two points at the death against the Cowboys.

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Leading by one point with one second to play after Adam Doueihi’s conversion attempt following a last-ditch try, the Cowboys kicked off and the Tigers caught the ball, meaning the game should have ended.

But the home side used their captain’s challenge — despite there being no break in the play where such a challenge would be acceptable — and Ashley Klein in the bunker inexplicably ruled a North Queensland chaser had been illegally taken out off the ball.

Valentine Holmes kicked a penalty goal to win the game and the NRL world went berserk — none more so than Graham.

Commentating the action on Triple M, the Brit couldn’t believe his eyes. So shocked was he, Graham called the decision a “disgrace” five times in a minute as he tried to wrap his head around what had happened.

“That is a disgrace. That’s a disgrace! That is a disgrace,” Graham fumed. “That video ref has had a shocker.

“That is a disgrace.

“What are they challenging? The full-time whistle went. They’re challenging the fact the full-time siren went? What are they challenging? There’s no decision to challenge. It’s just a tackle.

“That is a robbery. There has been a balaclava, a sawn-off shotgun and someone’s gone to Townsville and robbed the Tigers of two points. That is a disgrace.”


The Tigers haven’t ruled out a legal challenge after the farcical ending as the NRL tried to justify the on-field referee’s call that allowed the Cowboys to challenge in the first place.

“The captain’s challenge was permissible in these circumstances. Although the referee had blown his whistle to stop the game after the last tackle was completed as time had expired, he had not yet called full-time,” an NRL spokesperson said.

Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis was outraged.

“I have spoken to Andrew Abdo and Peter V’landys and have informed them that we are reserving our position and that we will be considering all options available to us,” Hagipantelis told The Daily Telegraph.

“I voiced my objection and concerns with respect to what happened in the strongest possible terms.

“We owe it to our fans and members, but more importantly we owe it to our boys, who put in an incredible effort today and were denied their just rewards.

“They (NRL) acknowledged our position.”

Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe added: “It shouldn’t have happened. I’m confident that I speak for every Tigers fan and member, the fact that there was no decision to be challenged and then the decision itself, it is beyond comprehension.”

Stand-in Tigers coach Ben Gardiner couldn’t get his head around the decision but gave a classy response after the game.

“It was a moment of elation and a moment of deflation,” he said. “I felt I wasn’t quite sure on why the decision was made.

“My understanding is when the Bunker comes into play when there is a challenge made, it has to be when there is an indiscretion in the play, when there is a breakdown in the play.

“My understanding is we caught the ball, the game was over, and that’s where it should have ended.

“I’ve been around coaching for a long time and you can get upset, you can complain, you can do all those sorts of things, but it doesn’t change anything. It was a moment of deflation, that’s for sure.”

Cowboys coach Todd Payten admitted his side got lucky.

“If I look back at the season gone so far, we had a try taken off us last week which was huge. Even back in round one, Hamiso (Tabuai-Fidow) got a try taken off him with a couple of minutes to go which cost us a game,” he said.

“What goes around comes around, we got one tonight. We got a call at the end.

“Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t. Tonight we got one.”

Originally published as Triple M star absolutely loses it on live radio as NRL ‘disgrace’ sparks outrage

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