Melbourne Storm legend Billy Slater believes the NRL judiciary is “making an example” of Wests Tigers star Joseph Leilua questioning the severity of the four-match handed to him for his off-the-ball hit in his side’s loss to Penrith.
Leilua drew the ire of the NRL community when he decked Penrith’s Dylan Edwards with a high swinging arm off the ball, sparking a scuffle and earning a sin-binning just before full-time.
The seeds of the incident were sewn moments earlier, however, when Leilua’s brother, Luciano, was taken from the field following a high tackle from Apisai Koroisau midway through the second half.
From then on, the centre set out on a revenge mission that inevitably landed himself in hot water, but Slater believed the four-match ban handed to Leilua was harsh.
“I understand the frustration of his brother being knocked out and them being behind,” Slater told Wide World of Sports Radio. “Certainly didn’t surprise me.
“This has been a part of Joey’s game for a long period of time. It’s been the part of his game that has let him down. He is such a quality player that he doesn’t need to have these brain explosions in his game.
“I don’t know that four weeks is going to ram the point home for Joey Leilua. I think it’s got to be an internal punishment from the Wests Tigers and Madge Maguire the coach.
“I don’t believe that it warranted four weeks, the incident itself. I feel that they’re making an example of Joey Leilua.”
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Slater felt Leilua’s hit was not as dangerous as many others that he had seen over his career.
“How many high tackles do you see that collect someone in the head and have more force behind it than what Leilua did?,” he said. “And they don’t get four weeks.
“I got hit off the ball after I passed it in 2018 by Sio Soliola. He got five weeks. I was asleep, I got taken off in a stretcher.
“I don’t think this incident itself deserved four weeks … I think it’s not acceptable. But the incident itself was not worth four weeks.”