Legal Loophole Allows NRLW Star Caitlan Johnston to Play in Grand Final


A stroke of legal loophole luck means Caitlan Johnston, the irrefutable Knights starlet, will be free to grace the field in Sunday’s pivotal NRLW grand final. This turn of events systematically bypasses a potentially disheartening one-game ban accruing from a high tackle on Miriah Denman of Brisbane.

Fans spanning the length and breadth of the Hunter could have very well had their spirits dive at the sighting of the charge sheet unfurled on Monday morning. Johnston, the decorated prop, was smacked with a grade 1 careless high tackle charge, typically attracting a one-game ban subject to an early demonstration of guilt.

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Remarkably, Johnston, despite a previous suspension in the current season, stands primed to stand opposite the Titans. Thanks to a judiciary code amendment, lighter bans applicable in acknowledgement of the abbreviated NRLW season insinuate freedom for the forward to play.

History isn’t being written anew as Johnston is not the pioneer to be fined rather than suspended this year. An application of rule 39A allows Johnston to part with $400 in lieu of a suspension.

Rule 39A elucidates that in a scenario where the player faces a one-match suspension for an offence being their first or second under rule 41(1), a guilty plea enables the player to opt for a $400 fine over the suspension.

Embracing the opportunity with both arms, the Knights were swift to acquiesce to the fine. Their coach, Ron Griffiths, expressed sheer elation at his star forward being saved from missing a critical game due to a grade 1 offence.

NRL head of football, Graham Annesley, explicates the reasoning behind the innovation of the rule during his weekly reports. He cited, it was primarily envisaged to avoid NRLW players being forced into paying fines, given their status as part-time professionals and income disparities with their male counterparts.

While low-grade offences in the male league result in fines, the women’s league attempts to replace fines with suspensions, post several warnings. Notably, the rule includes the wherewithal to substitute a game suspension with a fine at player discretion. A total of six occurrences this season substantiate this, where NRLW players chose to swap their suspension for a fine, allowing them to maintain their game presence.

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