David Croft faced a SANZAR Judicial Officer in Brisbane to determine whether any further penalty should be imposed on him as a result of his receiving three yellow cards during the Super 14 competition.
The SANZAR Judicial Officer Mr. Harold Shand conducted the disciplinary hearing.
Croft was represented by his barrister, Mr. Mark Martin and Reds Team Management, Mr Eddie Jones and Mr. Luca Liussi.
The Judicial Officer has no power to consider the validity of the issue of the yellow cards and the only power of the hearing is to determine whether a further penalty should be imposed for his persistent offending.
The yellow cards issued to Croft were:
1. v Brumbies when Croft and George Smith were carded for joining a fracas that had started between outside backs which was described as fighting. There was no allegation that either player threw a punch
2. v Blues when Croft was carded for a technical infringement at the breakdown after a ‘team caution’ had been issued. He had been penalized once previously in the match.
3. v Highlanders when Croft was carded for a technical infringement at the breakdown after a ‘team caution’ had been issued. He had not previously been penalised in the match
Croft’s counsel made the following submissions:
1. That at least 2 and arguably 3 of the offences were ‘technical’ offences and not for foul play which constituted any danger to player safety. None of the offences have sanctions prescribed in Appendix 1 of I R B Regulation 17 as seems to be required by Regulation 17.20(f).
2. The effect that the temporary suspension had on the opposition scoring tries during the 10 minutes
3. The two previous decisions in SANZAR (Tuqiri 17 July 2003 and Maxwell 31 October 2001) imposed no further penalty. In both cases, the yellow cards had all been issued for foul play.
4. The RFU (England) position which is to disregard any yellow cards issued for technical offences. This was evidenced by an English decision of Smith 23 October 2006 which decided that a player who had received two yellow cards in a match (and therefore a red card) for technical offences did not receive any additional penalty.
5. The highly contentious matter of the policing of the breakdown and its interpretation which sees two International openside flankers, Burger (SA) and Smith (AUS) with two yellow cards
6. The definitions of repeated offending in Law 10.3(c) which says .. ‘When a player offends three times, the referee must caution the player’
7. Croft’s impeccable disciplinary record in 74 Super Rugby Games and 5 tests for Australia
8. The Oxford definition of ‘persistent’ as ‘continuing or recurring, prolonged’ did not appear appropriate to describe the conduct of Croft who was fulfilling the role of an openside flanker in a dynamic and highly subjective breakdown environment given that he had been penalized only 3 times in his last 220 minutes of Super Rugby.
Looking at each of the three yellow cards in terms of culpability for persistent offending and whether or not a case had been made out for the imposition of a further penalty to give effect to the regulations, the Judicial Officer could not be satisfied that further penalty was warranted and accordingly no further penalty would be imposed on Croft under Regulation 17.20.