Wigan Warriors fans have been left with mixed emotions after Warrington’s Ben Westwood was given a one-match suspension for punching Blake Green in the Super League Grand Final.
Green went on to be crowned man of the match in Wigan’s 30-16 win over Warrington, while Westwood’s punch in the second minute of the game went unnoticed by the referee but inspired Wigan to push for victory.
Westwood has been named alongside eight Wigan players, including departing captain Sam Tomkins, in England’s 14-man Rugby League World Cup squad.
Westwood pleaded guilty to the charge from the RFL of punching Green, which the Panel cited as being against the spirit of the game. Westwood said the vigour of the Grand Final had forced him into making the punch.
“The atmosphere was intense with arms and legs everywhere,” Westwood said in an RFL statement.
“The player states that he received an elbow which he states was not deliberate from his opponent. The player then wanted to let him know he was there and went in hard but not deliberately.
“The player states he was devastated when he saw on the screen the replays where he had caught his opponent as he never intended to do anything deliberate to hurt his opponent.”
The committee, after viewing the footage, accepted that Westwood’s punch was not deliberate and gave him credit for his guilty plea and the remorse he showed.
Wigan fans took to forums to express their disappointment.
Writing on RLfans.com, one user called the decision ‘a joke’ and blasted the fact that Westwood’s one-match ban could apply to the friendly against Italy in the run-up to the World Cup. This would mean that he is free to start in England’s first match against Australia on 26th October.
Suzy Banyon wrote on the forum: “Regarding the Westwood incident, it’s clear to see that the disciplinary have decided to punish Westwood without actually punishing either him or more importantly England.”
Another user Nicky Kiss, however, took the opposite view.
“I’m glad he’s got given a token gesture of a one game ban. I’m an England fan and I want him playing for us against the Aussies!”
Image courtesy of Sky Sports via YouTube, with thanks.