Blocker Roach blasts NRL over Jarome Luai's referee incident

The Penrith five-eighth caused controversy with the bizarre moment.

Jarome Luai smiling and Luai touching the NRL referee.
Steve 'Blocker' Roach has claimed Jarome Luai (pictured left) should have been handed a suspension after touching the referee on Thursday night. (Images: Getty Images/Fox Sports)

The man responsible for one of the game's most infamous player-referee confrontations has warned the NRL it risks major ramifications for not suspending Penrith star Jarome Luai over contact with a match official. Former Tigers prop Steve Roach was suspended for four weeks after patting referee Eddie Ward on the head after being sin-binned in a fiery encounter against Manly in 1990.

Blocker admitted he was fortunate to escape a heavier penalty and has spent the past three decades strongly advocating for the safety of match officials. He cannot believe the NRL match review committee did not ban Luai after the Penrith playmaker pushed his hand into touch judge Chris Sutton's back following a Penrith try in Thursday night's clash with Brisbane.

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The No.6 insists he was just trying to get around Sutton and didn’t register he was match official, immediately apologising for his actions. "I spoke to him straight away and said, 'I didn't know it was you'. I wasn't really looking. My headlights weren't on. I apologised and we are sweet," Luai told AAP at fulltime.

The NRL judiciary took him at his word, handing down a grade one contrary conduct charge, which comes with an $1,800 fine. It's Luai's second recent similar offence and Roach believes it should have resulted in time on the sideline – even if it meant missing Origin I on May 31.

"I was surprised he was let off," Blocker told Sky Sports Radio's Big Sports Breakfast Weekend. "I'm a great fan (of his) and I’ll be glad - if he does get picked for NSW – he’ll be there, but in saying that, you're not allowed to do it (touch a referee).

"When you have time to settle down, you can always make up excuses why you did it. (But) if you push him in the back like he (Luai) did, all the excuses in the world (don’t wash)."

Blocker Roach calls for Jarome Luai precedent

Roach is concerned young players watching the incident will now think it’s okay to come in contact with match officials. He said: "It depends on what sort of message we're trying to send out to young kids – you can't touch a referee.

"If he gets away with it, you'll see kids playing football during the week thinking they can handle officials."

Former Broncos international Sam Thaiday also slammed the lenient punishment, pointing out he was suspended for a week in 2013 after touching a referee's shirt while explaining an incident.

Luai is certain to be picked as the Blues five-eighth for the Origin opener after holding off a strong challenge from in-form Sharks star Nicho Hynes.

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